Friday, 25 March 2016

His Royal Highness, The Tamil Tiger - FICTION

Chapter 4

Report to Kilinochchi

The Smiling Minister continued to stare at the crowd, and his smallish eyes narrowed in dangerous contemplation and his hand stroked his thick black mustache—a near perfect duplicate of His Royal Highness’ mustache. He needed to stall for time, to divert the students’ attention and anger.

So he decided to recite the Tamil Tiger’s battlefield achievements. Their victories over the years were the main reason for the mass support by the native Tamil population and the Tamil Diasporas. Maybe if he could remind these students of the Tamil Tiger’s past victories, they would settle down and possibly even fall in line. Some of the more well known victories had been used as propaganda to collect money from the Diaspora. He stroked his black mustache again. Which battle should he relate? Before he did so, he decided to bait the students.

“My dear students, teachers, and staff of Vembady Girls’ College, I’m glad that I have this rare opportunity to stand before you. I’m glad that you have openly shared your views about our freedom movement. It warms my heart to hear that you aren’t cowards, but true Tamils! You are highly intelligent scholars and have rightfully resisted being manipulated. I foresee a brilliant future for all of you. No doubt you will become leaders of the Jaffna district, using your intelligence and genius to better our people. Alumni of your fine college are found all over the world—America, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, France, Italy, and so on. They are extraordinarily respected everywhere! You are wonderful students. I salute you! I am proud of you! The Tamil Tigers are proud of you! His Royal Highness is proud of you!” He paused and saw that his speech was having a calming effect on the students. He continued, “Your college is great—the best one in Sri Lanka! What a wonderful college! I say three hearty cheers for the Vembady scholars! Hip Hip!”

“Hooray!” the girls shouted enthusiastically. It is hard to resist praise about yourself.

“Hip Hip!”


“Hip Hip!” 


For a moment everyone forgot the tension, lost to praise from the ever smiling Minister. The teachers sighed deeply, happily welcoming the Minister’s change of tone and speech. They did not know the depth of subterfuge the Smiling Minister was willing to descend to. If they did, their smiles would quickly change to tears of fear.

The Minister flashed his huge smile, and the principal and her staff found themselves relaxing, smiles of their own blossoming on their lips. Somehow the Minister had turned disaster around. Somehow he had turned disaster into a potential victory. The Tamil soldiers on the platform shook hands and heaved sighs of relief. Perhaps they would not have to return in failure after all. One whispered confidently, “His Royal Highness will be glad to hear of the Minister’s accomplishment here.”

A few in the auditorium were not smiling, however. The history teacher was trying to attract Sendhoory’s attention, and when that didn’t work, she looked around for Head Prefect Mehala. She couldn’t see her anywhere. Unlike the rest of the teaching staff, the history teacher was worried.

The Minister smiled even wider, if possible, and continued, “I think this is an occasion that deserves reflection on one of the Tamil Tigers’ most stunning victories over the Sri Lanka garrison at Mullaitivu on the east coast of Vanni.” Warming up to his story, he rubbed his hands on his walking stick enthusiastically. “The camp had been situated to protect against the maneuvering of Tamil Tiger Navy in the Bay of Bengal. This also allowed them to keep an eye on the Vanni region under control of the Tamil Tigers.

“The world has witnessed a number of brutal attacks by guerillas fighting for their freedom. But none of the actions of these other freedom movements can compare to the battle where we captured the Mullaitivu garrison of 4000 Sinhala soldiers and all their modern war equipment!” The Minister held forth his walking stick for all to see. “This walking stick is in itself a reminder of the great victory at the Battle of Mullaitivu.”

The intelligent students understood what he meant and clapped and cheered for some time. The Minister, experienced at addressing large crowds of thousands of people, believed that Sendhoory’s interruptions would come to an end. His smile twisted almost in a sneer of victory as he contemplated his own cleverness. He stood before the microphone and declared in a ringing voice, “We defeated and disgraced the Sri Lankan government and military on a good number of occasions. When the Sinhalese lions in their southern citadels heard rumors that the Tamil Tigers were in their midst, they began to panic, screaming and lamenting, running and hiding to save their lives!  

“The Sri Lankan Sinhala Majority government plundered our ethnic Tamil families, stripping them of their fundamental rights! Citizen rights! Language rights! Education rights! Employment rights! They passed draconian laws in order to haul Tamils off to prisons without trials, to confiscate their traditional lands in the East and North just to create Sinhalese settlements—to alter the demographic pattern.

“But it was we, the Tamil Tigers, who made the Sri Lankan government tremble with fear and mental anguish despite the support and blessings given to the genocidal Sinhalese government by India, China, Pakistan, and the United Kingdom.”

By now, viewing the rapt attention of the students and teachers, the Minister felt confident that he could convince them to take part in the protest march. Though he was a bit put out when he noticed a teacher in her thirties wearing a blue sari trying to hide behind another somewhat heavy teacher. His confusion evident on his face, he shook his head and muttered something to himself. He knew that the intelligent students wouldn’t be so easily distracted, so he determined to be careful and watchful.

The history teacher peeked carefully around her plump colleague, watching the Minister carefully. She seethed at the Minister’s cleverness in diverting the students with a bit of praise and a reminder of all the hardships Tamils had endured under the Sri Lankan government. The Minister might yet succeed in his designs. To head it off, she passed a note to a nearby student and indicated that it should be delivered to Sendhoory.

Soon, a whispering campaign began to filter through the crowd of students.

The Minister continued, “Be it known, my dear students, principal, and teachers, that celebrated historians have even compared His Royal Highness’ great victories against the Sri Lankan military to some of the more world famous battles of the world! His Royal Highness has been compared to the Duke of Wellington who defeated the French Emperor, Bonaparte Napoleon, at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815!”

Hearing such an absurd historical comparison, the history teacher whispered to the teacher she hid behind, “The Minister is comparing the cat to the lion. Wellington’s army consisted of 67,000 men and he left 15,000 men dead or wounded on the battlefield. Napoleon’s troops consisted of 69,000 men and he lost 15,000 with an additional 8,000 captured.” She snorted softly. “The Tamil Tigers never had an army that exceeded 14,000!”

Clearly, though, the Minister was on a roll. “I would like to elaborate about the celebrated Battle of Mullaitivu, I mentioned earlier. Including me, four thousand soldiers took part in the attack that started on July 18th, 1996. The battle lasted for eight days. We had to fight against an entrenched garrison that occupied an area approximately 2,900 meters by 1,500 meters. An open 8,200 meter long perimeter surrounded the camp.

“This was the headquarters of the 215th Brigade of the 6th Vijayabahu Infantry Regiment and of the 9th Battalion of the Sinha Infantry Regiment. There were ninety guard posts that surrounded the garrison.

“We launched our assault at 1:30 a.m. While dodging bullets, we had to cut barbed wires, clear landmines that would decimate our troops, and penetrate the camp perimeter from three sides. Four thousand Tamil Tigers surged forward like ocean waves, one group after another. The first wave was cut down by vicious counter fire, leaving many hundreds dead. It took us eight hours of fighting, crawling over our own dead, to overrun the forward defensive lines and to reach the center of the camp. There, we turned our attention to the ammo depots and armories.

“Meanwhile the Sri Lanka Air Force carried out strafing runs on our positions all that day. On the 19th, however, an all-volunteer force of 275 elite commandos of the 1st Special Forces Regiment led by Lieutenant Colonel Lafir was heli-dropped near the coastal town of Alambil in an effort to flank our forces. We damaged the helicopter and killed all the commandos moving towards the camp! Not to be left out, the Sri Lankan troops began to make landings by sea under the protection of the Sri Lankan Navy’s fast attack landing crafts. Our Sea Tigers counterattacked by sending suicide boats heavily laden with explosives to ram the Sri Lankan Navy. The large gunboat, Ranaviru, was rammed and sunk instantly, taking with it its entire crew of thirty-six.

“The Sri Lankan military lost over 2200 troops while we only lost 340!”

Shaking her head in dismay, the history teacher murmured to her fellow teacher, “The Minister has dramatically reduced the number of Tamil Tigers killed in that battle. By all reports, they lost over 2000 themselves—almost half of them!”

“Be careful,” the plump teacher whispered back, “the Tamil Tiger spies are known to hide in the very wind!”

Taking a sip of water from a glass sitting on the lectern, the Minister shifted a bit to study the crowd and gather his thoughts. He liked what he saw. “We captured,” he went on, “significant amounts of weapons and equipment from their garrison, including two 122mm artillery guns and a few 120mm mortars. The victory allowed us to dominate the Mullaitivu district! It was a resounding and decisive victory for us.” He paused to allow suspense to build. “I left that battlefield six days later minus one leg!” He thumped his prosthetic leg with his walking stick letting the hollow sound reverberate through the auditorium.

Students leaped to their feet and gave the Minister a standing ovation.

After the commotion died down a bit, the Minister struck a heroic pose and said, “I am going to observe two minutes of silence in respect for my fellow soldiers who gave their lives during those eight days of heroic fighting.” He closed his eyes, folded his hands across his chest and bowed his head in silent homage.

His reverence became contagious as the student body, staff, and Tigers alike stood up and bowed their heads to pay their respects for the fallen warriors who had sacrificed themselves to establish a Tamil Homeland in the northeastern part Sri Lanka—the ancestral homeland of the Tamils.

The Minister smirked to himself and stepped away from the microphone to mutter to himself, “I’ll make these little whores lick His Royal Highness’ feet like slaves!” He would show them what happens when they threaten the Tamil Tigers! You think you’re so smart! he silently chortled to himself, well we’ll just see about that, foolish girls! You’re nothing but small fry to us!

The Minister turned to Lieutenant Earless and whispered, “I’m going to make the rebellious whore run from the auditorium in tears. Watch.” He turned his attention to the girl who had challenged him. He smiled leeringly at her and held his walking stick up and wagged it at her challengingly. “What do you say about our grand victories and valor? Do you still claim us to be cowards? The entire world trembles at the mention of His Royal Highness the Tamil Tiger! What say you now?”

Sendhoory didn’t rise to the bait. She gave a perk smile, and kept silent.

Encouraged, the Minister continued his verbal assault. “Miss Vembady, why are you not opening your dirty little mouth? What happened to you, my dear? Why are you acting so dumb?” He threw an evil smile at Monitor Sendhoory.

The poor Minister forgot the Tamil proverb, ‘he fell headlong into his own trap.’

The girl sitting next to Sendhoory pinched her thigh to indicate all was in readiness. Sendhoory got up from her seat and fixed the Minister with a polite smile. The entire crowd was riveted on their young leader.

“Come on. What do you say?” urged the Minister gleefully. He thought he had her cornered.

“Honorable Minister, it seems to me that you are trying to fly with only one wing like the ghost that showed its antics to Colonel Fazackerly.”

The Minister blinked in confusion. He had no idea what the girl just said, being unfamiliar with Charles Causley’s poem entitled, ‘Colonel Fazackerly’ which describes a ghost living in an abandoned building performing tricks to frighten off the Colonel. The Minister, afraid that he had missed something important but unwilling to show it, pretended not to have heard her. “Come on, pretty girl, open your mouth. Speak. We are eager to hear you, little madam.”

The last two words irritated her, but she didn’t show her anger. She cleared her throat and addressed the Minister. “Honorable Minister of Political Affairs, I wish to add my congratulations on His Royal Highness’s victory at the Battle of Mullaitivu. Please convey to His Royal Highness my hearty and deep felt congratulations on behalf of the students and staff of Vembady Girls’ College.”

“Thank you, thank you, cute little girl. Certainly I’ll take your congratulatory message to His Royal Highness. He will most certainly confer upon you the deserved title of ‘Bravado Damsel.’”
“Honorable Minister, I have a question.”

“Just one? My dear, ask as many as you want to!”

The stupid and emotional Minister might as well have asked a hurricane to have a chat with him while sitting on a plastic chair under the porch.

“Thank you, Honorable Minister. We are glad that His Royal Highness has defeated the chauvinistic Sri Lankan forces so completely. The Sinhala government is indeed scared of His Royal Highness. We are glad that he fought for Tamil Eelam (Tamil Kingdom) to free us from the Sinhala hegemony and its undemocratic laws against ethnic Tamils. We were behind him; we supported him. Students from this very institution rallied to the cause and joined his ranks, but now…”

“But now?” the minister repeated, dumbly.

“The situation has changed. His Royal Highness kills his own countrymen—the intelligentsia, elites, writers, politicians, professors, teachers, administrators, business men, anyone having a different political view, people unable to pay their taxes, people reluctant to join his cause, and anyone who has joined a rival insurgent group. He kills human beings in the same manner as the health department kills malaria spreading mosquitoes. He is the one that called these people his ‘umbilical cord relations.’ Yet he treats them like mosquitoes!

“We already told you the names of the TULF politicians murdered by him. Now there are no longer any talented Tamil politicians to lead the Tamil community. We can’t hire intelligent people from other countries to lead our people. It’ll backfire!

“I wish to quote a case in point. The elder brother of a teacher of this college was a soldier in one of the other insurgent groups. One morning he was caught at the KKS-Moolai intersection by Tamil Tigers on the hunt for the blood of a particular rival group.  He begged them to let him go, saying, ‘I also took up a gun to fight for the freedom of the Tamil people! Don’t kill me!’ Yet they shot him and threw his body on tires in the middle of the road and set him on fire before his eyes could close. They forced the principal of Union College, Kathir Balasundaram, and some others to watch.

“The victim’s sister, only fourteen years of age and a student at Ramanathan Girls’ College, heard about her brother’s murder and rushed to Tellippali---KKS-Moolai intersection---with her mother. There they witnessed the blacken corpse of their brother and son still burning in the middle of the intersection. The teacher, even years later, carries this horrifying picture in her mind and heart.

“Sir, His Royal Highness is killing his own people—people he said he relies on. Is it any wonder that we hate him and curse him? He is a poisonous cobra that never apologizes for being evil and furiously seeks vengeance on anyone who he feels opposes him. He tolerates no one that doesn’t see eye to eye with him. His atrocities and carnage have completely eroded any support we once may have given him!

“We no longer follow His Royal Highness or any other group that took up arms to establish a Tamil Kingdom in northeastern Sri Lanka. It is true that these other insurgencies killed Tamils as well, but the Tamil Tigers have killed many, many more!”

Absolute silence descended on both sides of the lectern.

A small girl sitting in the front row took the opportunity to stand to her feet. She had only one eye, having lost the other in a crossfire between the Tamil Tigers and the Sri Lankan military during a battle at Nallur, a Hindu religious centre. She came from a very wealthy and influential family, and everyone waited breathlessly for her to speak.

“Sir,” she began slowly, almost quietly, “one early morning, two Tamil Tiger combatants went to a house in Nallur near the Kailasa Pillayar Temple. One of them carried over his shoulder a large sack big enough to hold one hundred pounds of onions. They knocked on the door until an old white haired lady wearing a white sari* came out. ‘What do you want?’ she asked the soldiers in civilian dress.

“The deceptive insurgents replied, ‘Madam, we have a present for you.’ They unrolled the sack removing an AK-47 assault rifle. They brutally gunned down my grandma, Sarojini Yogeswaran, the mayor of the City of Jaffna.”

Dead silence followed that announcement.

The girl continued, “Honorable Minister of Political Affairs, I was wondering if you could tell us why the Tamil Tigers killed my grandmother? Sir, His Royal Highness says that we are all related, that we’re all family…and yet he kills his own family like mad wolves in a sheep pen. You also killed my grandfather at the same spot where you killed the former opposition leader, Honorable Amirthalingam.

“Grandma lived alone, foregoing the security detail she was entitled to as the mayor of the City of Janffa. She said she had done nothing wrong, that there was no reason for anyone to ever want to hurt her. She just wanted to live peacefully. She only accepted the position of mayor to keep her busy, to distract her from the death of her husband who she missed so much. My grandfather Yogeswaran was a Member of Parliament. You killed him too. Why did you kill my grandma? I hate His Bloody Royal Highness! He’s not the sage Markandeyar* who escaped death forever. He’ll meet a disgraceful death and people will spit on his corpse as the Italians did to Mussolini’s body in Milan!”

Like a colony of wasps swarming from a disturbed nest in search of the threat, the girl’s heartrending story inspired many of the other girls to rise to their feet to voice their own stories. Soon the Minister found himself bombarded by stories of murder and atrocities from the crowd. He didn’t know what to do. He didn’t know what to say. He glanced at the veteran Velavan plaintively. The man mouthed, “Don’t say anything! They’ll drag you into a latrine pit!”

One voice stood out from the rest however, compelling many of the girls to sit back down to listen and arresting the Minister’s attention.  “I’m not from Jaffna,” the girl said clearly, her voice ringing throughout the auditorium. “I’m from Arayampathy in Batticaloa, a sandy village between Batticaloa Lagoon and the Bay of Bengal. I was a baby when my father, Thambipillai Rajaratnam, the principal of a school, was murdered by the Tamil Tigers. The Indian Peace Keeping Forces forced my father to participate in one of their meetings of regional leaders.

“Just for being at that meeting, the Tamil Tigers came to our home and demanded that my father accompany them to their outpost for an inquiry. They promised to release my father right afterwards. Two days later, when he still hadn’t come home, my uncles went to the Tiger’s camp in Muthalikkuda to find out what had happened to him. But the Tigers refused to allow them to see my father. They promised he would be released soon and warned my uncles not to return. Two months later, the Tigers returned to tell my mother to wear white sari and mourn his demise…” she trailed off repeating that last sentence almost to herself.

She straightened and continued, “Minister, His Royal Highness is a murderer—a murderer of his own brothers and sisters. He is going to die one day. He won’t live forever. I curse him. He’ll meet a death so shameful that even his wife will not have an opportunity to wear the white sari to mourn him! He’s mad. He isn’t even human! He’s a beast in a human form! Do you really think that we’ll participate in this protest march? We’ll be there all right…to throw stones at you!”

The girl’s fiery words reminded the history teacher of the Tamil proverb, ‘The young calf will dare anything.’ Her obvious anguish over the loss of her father brought tears to many of the girls’ eyes. Everyone was struck dumb with silence.

As if that signaled a death knell, Head Prefect Mehala appeared at the entrance of the auditorium and gave the signal for the students to dismiss. Not a student uttered a word, each trying to preserve the solemnity of the tragic stories that they had just heard. The Smiling Minister watched them all leave, orderly, quietly, like well disciplined troops on maneuvers. He swallowed hard, his disbelief at the students’ challenges and his rage building at his impotence to do anything about it.

It took about ten minutes for the entire student body to file out of the auditorium.

Standing near the back wall as if they had been nailed there, the principal and teachers waited in trembling fear for what the Smiling Minister would do next. Not one doubted the man’s evil intent. Only the Vice Principal, Mrs. Piriya, had the presence of mind to slip away with the students.

Principal Vasnatha Velautham’s body trembled uncontrollably which only got worse with the Smiling Minister’s angry visage fell upon her. His eyes held the promise of death, a predator circling its wounded prey. She grabbed Pandit Manka’s hand and squeezed tightly to keep herself from falling. Her heart raced, the pounding organ threatening to burst right from her chest.

The Smiling Minister snatched a pistol from one of the soldiers that had secreted the weapon away in his shirt when they had crossed the border. He dashed towards the back wall, his face livid with rage, the pistol waving threateningly in the air. The soldiers assigned to the Minister scrambled in his wake.

Lieutenant Earless followed with another pistol, the young cadet nipping at his heels imploring, “Sir, please may I have the pistol! I want to shoot some of those bloody teachers!” The young cadet had a taste for violence and mayhem that would in no way be satisfied until someone lay dead at his feet. The brain-washed twelve year old cadet had already been given chances to murder someone by way of promoting him to the status of a full-fledged ‘black tiger.’ He had always hesitated before so he had yet to be blooded. But now, the cadet was furious, and he continued nagging Lieutenant Earless for a gun.

The teachers shrieked piteously as the Minister marched towards them, many falling to their knees and holding their hands out imploringly. Many began to pray fervently to God for deliverance or a speedy end.

Seeing the Minister’s intent, Pandit Manka screeched, “We are innocent! We didn’t know what the students would do! We can’t be held responsible for their stupid and horrible behavior!” The Minister snarled and marched closer, his walking stick striking the ground hard with each stride. “Please spare us! We beg you! We’re all married with children! We had nothing to do with their foolish behavior! Have mercy! Have mercy!”

The Minister pressed his pistol to Principal Vasantha’s forehead. For two minutes he held that pose, his finger quivering on the trigger. The Principal closed her eyes and just prayed.

Velavan touched the Minister’s left shoulder gently. “Sir, don’t allow your rage to swallow you up here. If you pull that trigger, you will be in violation of the Cease Fire Agreement and we can’t hope to escape the Sri Lankan army already at the gate.” The Minister didn’t move, his eyes betraying his desire to put a bullet in the Principal’s head. Velavan licked his lips. “We can explain this to His Royal Highness. He needs to know about the student’s rebellion and their refusal to participate in the protest march. He’ll forgive us for not eliminating any of the traitors once he knows the truth. Order the Principal and that foolish girl to report to Kilinochchi for investigation.” He bent closer so that only the Minister could hear his next words. “We will eliminate the others later on Jaffna soil; for this purpose, you may use the assassination team already in place within Jaffna.”

The Smiling Minister relaxed perceptibly as the words sunk in. He knew this to be the best course. He took a few deep breaths to calm himself down. “Mrs. Velautham Vasantha,” he said in his most commanding voice. “You will report to Kilinochchi for an investigation into this matter. When you come, bring that stupid little girl who dared to question me.”

“Honorable Minister, I’m innocent of all this! I apologize for the student’s behavior, but—”

“Come to Kilinochchi. We’ll hear your defense there.”

Pandit Manka blanched upon hearing the order. “Sir, the Principal is 69 years old! She has a heart condition that requires daily medication. She pays her taxes! She is blameless. She had nothing to do with any of this. Please don’t order her to Kilinochchi! Please!”

“Shut your mouth,” the Minister snapped. “You talk too much. Do you want to report to Kilinochchi too?” Having backed the woman down, he turned to the rest of the teachers. “I’ll soon get to the bottom of all this. I’ll find out who is behind it. Be warned, you will reap what you sow. We’ll root out the spy. Even a mouse hiding in a forest will not find refuge from our eyes.”

The Minister lowered his pistol and prepared to leave. He glared around and noticed the teacher wearing the blue sari looking humbly down. He eyed her suspiciously, wishing she would raise her head so he could get a good look at her face, but she didn’t, and he didn’t want to waste any more time with these traitorous teachers. Murmuring something under his breath, the Minister stormed out of the auditorium his men following respectfully behind.

But before he made it all the way out of the auditorium, he hesitated, glancing behind to stare at the teacher in the blue sari.

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