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A Diasporic View


N. Manoharan

A FLEETING MOMENT IN MY COUNTRY: THE LAST YEARS OF THE LTTE DE-FACTO STATE
By N. Malathy
Aakar Books, New Delhi, 2013, pp. 176, Rs. 225.00

VOLUME XXXVIII NUMBER 12 December 2014

The ‘Eelam War IV’ that came to an end in May 2009, claimed thousands of lives: over 20,000 civilians perished, and about 6500 troops and 15,000 Tigers killed. This does not include thousands of injured in all the three categories. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), nearly 300,000 were internally displaced and hundreds fled as refugees to other countries, especially to India. Civilians who fled from the conflict zone and housed in various refugee camps in Sri Lanka as IDPs were suffering from acute malnourishment, dehydration, sickness, wounds, and mental trauma due to loss of their near and dear ones. The LTTE, once considered invincible, was decimated.  Though there is enough literature on how the LTTE was defeated, not much information is available on what had been happening in the LTTE-controlled areas during the last years of the conflict. The book under review throws light on that period. Written by a diaspora Sri Lankan Tamil who was engaged in human rights work in the LTTE-controlled area of Vanni up until it was overrun by Sri Lanka forces in 2009, the book provides a compelling insider’s look at the motivations, issues and complexities of ‘Eelam War IV’. This is what the author refers to in the title of the book as ‘The Fleeting Moment’. She had witnessed both construction during the ceasefire period (2002 to 2006) and destruction during the war that followed. The author had gone through the rich experience of Vanni life during the last stages of ethnic conflict: multiple displacements, starvation, bombings, killings, and internment.  Though a short book, it succinctly narrates various aspects of LTTE’s functions, its ideology, its interaction with the Sri Lankan Tamil society, life of its cadres, and its final demise. The chapter on ‘Vanni Media’ gives a good overview of the state of media (print, audio and audio-visual) in the then LTTE’s de facto state. Filled with many anecdotes, the style of narrative is engaging. It is undoubtedly a highly informative book, especially to researchers. Importantly, the account is autobiographical and is entirely based on first hand observation and information. Interestingly, the author was a spectator with a preferential seat. As Radha D’Souza in her ‘Foreword’ to the book rightly observes, ‘Malathy’s [the author] journey through the realities of the peace process on the ground and the eventful fate of the Tamils is an important story for all to digest.’   As the ...


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