The book ‘Tamil Tigress’ authored by a former woman cadre of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam under the pen name Niromi De Soyza was published in Australia.
The former child soldier is a University teacher in Australia and joined the LTTE as a girl of 17 just as it started recruiting women. The following interview first appeared in our sister paper the Mawbima.
The Sinhala readers of the Tamil Tigress would love to get to know things regarding your current life.
A: I live a pretty normal life. I work as an educator, as I love learning and I believe that one is never too old to keep learning. After all that I have been through, I appreciate all those who are in my life, I have a supportive and loving family and a large number of friends.
I don’t get spare time as I am always busy being involved in various community activities outside work and family, but I try to read during holidays which is my favourite hobby. Having brought up as a young child in the up country of Sri Lanka with so much greenery has made me an avid gardener too. I also love travelling, and hope to come to Sri Lanka sometime soon.
What do you feel when you think of the past 26 years of war in our country?
A: I feel terribly sad and heartbroken at the loss of lives and the destruction to our beautiful country. The whole country suffered so much due to hatred. While wounds take a long while to heal, I really hope we can all move forward with love for one another and for our country.
Do you think that it was fair for the Tamil youth in the North to take up arms?
A: Violence breeds violence. When people are faced with violence, they retaliate the same way. We should use empathy and understanding when faced with difficult issues and need to solve problems.
Thousands of Tamil youth like you joined LTTE those days.What could be the main reason for that?
A: As a young child, I saw that the Tamils faced injustice. When I lived in Jaffna, we were being bombed and shelled, and innocent people were being killed all around me. I also saw many Tamils from Colombo arrive in Jaffna as refugees in July 1983. You either choose to fight the injustice or die as a victim. I chose the former.
They were ready to sacrifice their lives what could be the main purpose?
A: The purpose of those who fought and sacrificed their lives, I believe, was for the right for every Tamil to live a free life. At the end of the day, every human being, no matter what language they speak or religion they believe in, wants the same thing – to lead a normal life.
Ajanthi, Murali and many of your friends were lost in the war. How do you feel about them?
A: To this day, I feel sick to my stomach when I think of their deaths. They, like many other young people from both sides of the civil war, had sacrificed their lives for what they believed in. I want all those alive today to remember them and urge never to create a situation again where young people feel the need to take up arms or sacrifice themselves.
Most of the armed rebel movements in the world, including LTTE, didn’t value lives of their cadres. Do you believe this?
A: When an organisation/country choses violence as its means to attain its objective, then the sacrifice of life is just a part of that agenda, be it its own member’s or the enemy’s.
Did you find something positive in the war?
Who was responsible for creating the war?
A: I dont think it’s any one person. It’s successive government policies and those who crave power that ruin any country.
Can any country or any nation win something launching a war?
A: While many would say war is necessary to fight tyranny. I take the view of the British philosopher Betrand Russel who said ‘war doesn’t determine who is right, only who is left’.
There’s a belief among our public that the most of the LTTE suicide bombers were from the upcountry labour families . Is that the truth?
A: That was not true in my time, all the suicide bombers were Jaffna Tamils. I can’t say what happened after I left.
Niromi, what’s the most heartfelt scene you saw and the most terrible incident you faced during the life in the war?
A: The most heartfelt was when you experienced kindness from strangers especially when those who are very poor who would offer you food or clothing despite they didn’t have much. Most infuriating was the hypocrisy of some people who would support you when you are in power and betray you when you are down.
The war- torn North of Sri Lanka is still experiencing different types of difficulties. How would the others help them?
A: I know there are several organizations which are helping those people who have lost so much during the war. The best way to help them is while taking care of their immediate needs such facilities and infrastructure, we need to help with health and education so future generations are self-sufficient and are able to contribute to society in a positive way.
The most controversial topic currently in Sri Lanka is Reconciliation. What do you suggest to improve it?
A: I’m not a politician and have no influence. In my personal view, it is same as any dispute among family or friends. Firstly both parties must acknowledge each other’s suffering and accept their own mistakes and say sorry. Only then true reconciliation can begin.
What is the message you have for the young people of the South and North in the country?
A: You are the future of Sri Lanka, one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Educate yourselves, take care of each other and respect your differences. Be proud of your country and make it a place where everyone can achieve their best. It is in your hands to make Sri Lankans be proud of who they are.
(Interviewed by Udeni Saman Kumara and Coordinated by Sunila Wijesinghe)