A Tamil ex-pats experience
by Dushy Ranetunge
Mrs X, a Tamil expatriate from Australia, who had been duped and exploited into helping out the LTTE front TRO (led by the Joy Maheswaran) has been airing out her experiences and providing a remarkable insight into thoughts and activities of Tamil expatriates working in the Vanni.
Other Tamil fanatics who blindly provide excuses for LTTE atrocities have been trying to shut Mrs X up, by saying that she is damaging their (terrorist) cause by airing her feelings on various issues. Freedom of expression is alien to the LTTE, which naturally operates with a mafia like death grip on the Tamil population. Fear and oppression, is its mode of operation.
The TRO has its HQ in Australia and is closely linked to the LTTE. They have also been diverting funds raised under to guise of "rehabilitation" to purchase arms for the terrorists. Some TRO officers based in Australia also work in KPs LTTE arms procurement operation.
A few years ago, after this newspaper exposed the TROs operations worldwide, the British Charity Commissioner raided and sized documents from the TRO office in London and sealed their bank accounts. The TRO office in London was then taken over by the British Charity Commission and administered by them. The LTTE had been using the TRO, which they had registered as a British Charity, to transfer out millions of Pounds out of the United Kingdom, evading Corporate Taxation and Value Added Tax (VAT) under the guise of rehabilitation work, to fund terrorism.
Mrs X states in her response to the LTTE supporter who is trying to shut her up; "On being asked by another cousin whose family was closer to Mr Sanmugarajah than I - I accepted the assignment to work in Vanni. I was told it was a World Bank assignment and I believe that my cousin also genuinely thought so. I was told that it could develop into long term. I said I was not interested in long term but that I was happy to help the Tigers Administration for three months. I was told that I would be met and accommodated in Colombo and that it would help if I could go immediately. Despite some pending matters that needed my presence here in Sydney, I decided to give priority to the needs of the Tigers at that crucial point in time. In terms of work - it was far below what I did then here in Australia and what I do now. In terms of money - it was break-even. I was told that my ticket would be paid for and that I would be accommodated in Colombo until my departure for Vanni. I brought forward my departure date because I was told that our services were urgently needed. I did not even stay at to look my sister up in Singapore but went straight to Colombo. I said to my cousin and the organisers who promised to arrange my accommodation in Colombo - that I had to see my aunt Pathma just for a short-while before I left for Vanni. Pathma aunty was ailing already and seeing me would have been like seeing her children. I was met alright at the Colombo airport - but was taken to a filthy room which were inferior to the servants quarters that I provided in Colombo to the nannies who looked after my children.
I drew on my inner strength and told myself that my services were NEEDED and limited my expressions of dissatisfaction to myself. In the morning I was asked by TRO officers to report to their office - and was provided transport towards this. I said I had no Rupees on me and was told by the TRO chief - to go to the bank. I had to pay for my ticket because the organisers did not. When I went to the TRO office - the bosses were busy entertaining a Norwegian team re de-mining. I waited and waited and waited - speaking on and off to the manager there. Eventually the bosses finished their meeting and the big boss asked me to have lunch with them. Lunch was served crudely even though the facilities were there to lay out the food with dignity and due respect. Even the Papadams were poorly cooked - and oil was dripping. I could have enjoyed a very healthy lunch at my aunts or the spiritual prasaadam from Ramakrishna Mission - which I visited first in the morning - or could have gone to any one of the many restaurants in Colombo for a decent meal at a fraction of the cost of waiting for the TRO bosses. I was told that Joy Maheswaran was arriving that night - and that I would be travelling with him to Vanni straight from the airport. I had not met Joy Maheswaran - but I was comfortable with the driver - Koneswaran.
In the meantime - in between shopping for the boss - Koneswaran took me to my aunts who was very happy to see me. I received her blessings for my work in Vanni. When in Vanni - I visited the Pillayar temple behind the old Killinochchi hospital - and read out from the memorial book of my uncle Mr Sanmugaraja - in which Mr Vaithilingam - the former head of railways also has paid tribute. I prayed to these two great minds who have done so much for the Tamils - not only just by their self-development and reaching such high positions despite the DISCRIMINATION that the Tigers are now able to sell to their advantage - but actively for the society.
Uncle Shan would have given you a good run in language and he would have beaten you flat in English. In addition - he had a brilliant Scientific and Mathematical mind. Without people like him and Vaithi uncle - Tigers would not have a case and YOU would not have a JCCP forum to display your personal interests in the Tamil language. You generalise and stretch your linguistic and literary achievements by abusing the PAIN of Tamils - including those like my aunt and uncle. YOU dont know the trauma that my uncle went through when he was denied promotions that were due to him.
At one stage - he was going crazy and aunty was really worried. I knew about my uncles pain through my aunty - no because she told me in words - but because we loved each other and therefore intuitively connected to each others pain. The likes of you cannot appreciate this deep connection - that does not require words and is beyond words.
I woke myself up at 1 a.m. to be at the airport to meet Joy Maheswaran and proceed to Vanni. Kones did not know the flight details - nor was he very sure of the time. We waited and waited and waited. Many others arrived and departed - but no Joy Maheswaran. The security staff were looking suspiciously at us - as we waited outside - not wanting to spend the money to go inside. I did not have any rupees on me any way. I sat on the front of a baggage trolley because my feet started aching. Then a security guy came up to us and asked us not to stay there. Realising that they were getting nervous about us - thanks to the Tigers - we decided to go inside and wait - and Kones bought the tickets. As we went inside - I went to the toilet - and when I came out - Joy Maheswaran was already there. We left straight for Vanni - not via the route Kones wanted to - but as per the route Joy Maheswaran fancied. We got lost - and had to inquire a few times and arrived late in Vavuniya.
The first night - I stayed at the TRO Lodge - and in the morning I went on a walk-about. I visited the orphanage Kuru Kulam - and found the place quite well kept. Of the three sections - the ones of middle and older kids were of good standard. The infant was NOT. Some of the kids were not clean and the minders were themselves not well-kept. I spent most time with this group - connecting to the little ones. The little boy named Thileepan - whose face appears on calendars - was not even wearing pants and he came running to me and clung to me - refusing to let anyone else sit in my lap. Children are conscious of the essence of their previous births - but they do not have the ability to express themselves. I felt that little Thileepan was giving me a strong message - to save the likes of him. Later a TRO staff from Vanni indicated to me that not everyone thinks that the orphanages are the answers - that they could be dumping grounds for irresponsible parents.
The Tiger Administration was also late in picking me up - and whilst I waited I spoke to the young chap who minds the TRO lodge. He was idling. I taught him a few English words and advised him to not waste time - but to at least go to the orphanage and WORK. Then another TRO officer came and this time it was to view the TRO lodge that was being built for the big bosses from Colombo. I engaged in some discussions re the toilets - at Muruhandi and the Vanni TRO Office - which were all Peethal Paranghi - broken English - style to my eyes. The guy said that those were on advice from Australians!!! But beyond that the guy did not seem interested - but was more interested in learning about what the stars and the horoscopes said - like the Canadian Teenagerfather. - except this was a young Tiger.
I put myself through the inconvenience and pain - to know what the Tigers were doing wrong. Where possible I spoke directly. I sought to speak to Joy Maheswaran when he arrived the following time in Vanni after his international tours. When I brought up the problems which I felt were already disadvantaging the Tigers - one of the other Tigers - a senior administrator started talking about the guy who allowed himself to be killed when the clip of the grenade he was carrying went off. He was made a hero for being negligent with his grenade. Nothing happened - even though I gave my report in writing.
I was not paid the promised allowance - nor the re-imbursement for the tickets. My visa was not organised and I was asked to first get it on personal basis - and then later to renew it on personal basis. There was much possessiveness from old expatriates like yourself working in Vanni - who felt they were sacrificing to help the Tamils. I felt it was more a refuge for their retirement. Young ones were restricted in the use of computers and photocopiers and using the email was made out to be a luxury. I later gave up trying and mailed out my letter to the Australian Ministers from whom I was seeking help towards exchange between the Tiger Fighters - especially women-figthers and the Aust Defence Personnel. I wrote also to the Chancellor of the UNSW and the Dean of UNSW Faculty of Medicine re the children - without and how I felt about their needs. The Chancellor sent back a response expressing some advice - especially in Health Services and his feelings for the kids. If nothing else - it cleared some of my loneliness and sustained me for the rest of my stay. I received a response from the Ministers office also - but to my Sydney address. I am continuing to work on those - through every opportunity I get.
I helped many on personal basis also and many expressly recognised my work. Staff at Tiger Administration felt fearful to visit the temple next door - which was filthy an smelly when I first visited. The staff from the governments office of the DPDHS were too laid back to do anything about it. Ultimately I asked the SINHALESE workers to help me and they washed and cleaned and lit the lamp and incense. I gave them the chocolates I had taken for my Jaffna relatives. We talked every day - even though my Sinhala was broken and their English was broken. They told me that they were going away for a while on another project to lay the foundation - at the request of TIGERS. They said that because the Tamils did not know!!!!! The workers who fixed the Solar panels at the government office were also Sinhalese. You may think that that was governments choice. But I know that it would have been very difficult to find Tamils for that job. This is what easy money does. You keep praising the leadership and keep giving away money so YOU get a forum for YOUR hobbies. Know now, that it comes at a price - the deterioration of the Tamil worker and his dignity.
Many of the workers - especially the Tigers needed a vehicle for even short distances. I often set the example for them - so like me they would walk more and not drive - and like me they would WORK more and talk less. I went with the Tiger Administration to Batticaloa and to Trinco. That trip was also poorly organised and was more like a pleasure trip than a work trip. But I met Dr Pathmalogani and her husband Karikalan and I liked them very much. I met young Dr Vaaman who wore prosthesis leg - but is one of the smartest and well groomed people I know. There was another young fighter - also a doctor - who threatened to take up his gun against me when I made recommendations that the head of the Eastern Province Health Service must be recruited by the Head at Vanni. I gave the young guy a lesson on what pain I had had to go through so he had the guns that he would lift against me. The night before I left Vanni - he brought his little baby and had me initiate the baby on the computer I was using.
These are realities that you do not want to know about. Many sought my counselling services. Dr Moorthi from the USA warmly hugged me and showed deep appreciation for my work - especially after he read some of my reports. A big meeting of SIHRN was organised for the Sunday after Siva Raathri - and I was not even told. I observed Siva Raathri with the ordinary folks - at the Murugan temple in Killinochchi and the following morning I caught the bus to Nallur. I changed some dollars through a guy at work. The Vanni leg bus fare was more expensive than the Jaffna leg - even though the distance seemed about the same. I have continued to be devoted to Nallur Murugan and over the years have from time to time fasted - eating only fruits for the 25 days. My daughter joined me when she was in year 11. No they do not know Tamil very well - but they know Lord Muruga very well through their mother. I arrived as the big poojah started at Nallur - Lord Muruga gloriously in Green - just like how I remembered Him from the evening Ther festival - when He grants wishes to us the devotees who seek Him with faith. I melted and cried that He would be so kind to show me that He was with me - especially at a time when I was hurting by the way I was treated - compared to say the way Joy Maheswaran was treated. And then we talk about Discrimination by the Sinhalese.
The following day - Monday - I was told as I arrived at work - that Joy Maheswaran had asked why I had not come for the meeting on Sunday!!! That reminded me of a young work-mate Heidi who said to me that I should have asked my boss just a minute Colleen - I am reading your mind. So saying Heidi - placed her palm on my forehead. Learning that the SIHRN meeting was on Monday also I asked the staff to get ready to go there on time - supposed to have been at 9 oclock. I heard many excuses - that the van was not working etc etc. I then said to the guy from DPDHS office to give me a ride on his motorbike. We were the first to arrive - and the only ones on time - which was 9.30. Later at the meeting - the guy who distributed the agenda - gave the guys on either side of myself a copy of the agenda but not one for me. If an American had done it - you would have said sex-discrimination. I did mention it to the head of the womens team - Thamilinee who was keen for me to talk to her girls as a group.
During the meeting - I tried to address these ADMINISTRATIVE problems but Joy Maheswaran said that they were irrelevant - like you are saying about Pathma aunty. They may be when we talk about you - who has the us and them division. But for those of us who give ourselves to the people we serve - everything we do is relevant. That is true leadership - the kind you can only dream of as you are now."
|NEWS | OPINION | BUSINESS | EDITORIAL | CARTOON | SPORTS|