“Out, damned spot! out, I say!–One: two: why,
then, ’tis time to do’t.–Hell is murky!–Fie, my
Lord, fie! a soldier, and afeard?”
– William Shakespeare: Macbeth, Act V; Sc 1.
Malinda Seneviratne – lately on the Gratiaen shortlist – writes and circulates a poem entitled “This Was for You” (dedicated to Balachandran, the slain youngest son of the former LTTE supreme, Velupillai Prabhaharan). Accompanying the poem are two famous graphics – one, of Balachandran (as accused by certain quarters) in military custody, eating off what appears to be a packet food item. The second is of a father kneeling by a group of massacred young bodies: the handiwork of the LTTE, at a much earlier point.
Malinda’s poem, in a gross trivialization of the North-Eastern conflict, claims that the (as implied) Sinhala children were killed on Balachandran’s behalf:
“when the butchers came
And as they slaughtered
There was something
It was in your name
that they killed”.
What brought Balachandran to the center of things was the Channel 4 findings and accusations in relation to alleged commissions of crimes against humanity in the closing stages of the North-Eastern war. With the Geneva Summit at its threshold, Channel 4 “released” a fresh supplement of what they call “compelling evidence”: the detention and death of Balachandran – accused to be committed by the Sri Lankan military – being its focal point.
Writing to the Nation of February the 24th,Malinda drafts a “long list” of possible killers connected with balachandran’s death. His article which, I believe, could be found among the archives of this paper entitled “Balachandran’s Killers” is categorically dismissive, if so with an air of flippancy, of the Channel 4 findings. His long compilation ends with his own identification of Balachandran’s killer: Velupillai Prabhaharan. Prabhaharan is identified as the man who caused the war to take its unfortunate trajectory and he is seen as the one responsible for the deaths that happened throughout the last stages – he, therefore, is the primary killer of Balachandran.
On February 21st, writing to his blog “Ramachandrage Adaviya” (Ramachandra’s Domain), the blogger Ramachandra makes the following observation regarding the same death in question. Here, I have translated Ramachandra’s words from Sinhala:
“The photograph of Balachandran’s body is capable of stimulating shock in any reasonable mind. What is now in emergence in the Southern Sinhala society on the aftermath of the Nandikadal ‘triumph’ of 2009 is a complex period. Incidents which indicate that the war which was earlier celebrated by the Sinhala society is merely a series of brutal killings keep surfacing day by day. The skeletal remains of the youth buried in Southern Matale during the 88-89 period are being recovered only now. Similarly, if one was to dig up the mass graves of the North? What and what not would those graves reveal? The fate of the thousands made to be buried under the earth cannot be hidden by the mere construction of a holiday resort by the Nandikadal lagoon”.
Returning to Malinda’s poem, quoted at the outset, what is disturbing is that Malinda / the narrator seems to indirectly justify the killing of Balachandran, for (as the narration authorizes) a thousand others – “Sinhala children” – have been killed in Balachandran’s name. This sentiment is not without pettiness, as the claim that the killers of the children whispered that they were killing in Balachandran’s name is a creation of the poet’s imagination. Even if the poet is to argue that what “Balachandran’s name”, here, implies is a wider implication – say, the name of “Prabhaharan’s lineage” or “the future of Tamil Eelam” – even still the argument lacks substance. However, Malinda’s poem gives some definite poetic leverage to the dominant Sinhala middle class psyche as showcased on gossip sites that congratulate the boy’s killing as justifiable. The gossip sites provide a crucial magnifier to the general mentality of the middle classes, and in these sites there are two dominant views regarding the death under study. The first, as already highlighted, is one where they deem Balachandran’s killing (by whom? – unlike Malinda, they seem to accept that this is a military-involved death) is “only right”. The other dominant view is to deny the accusation as a hoax.
Ramachandra sums up his essay of 21st February with the following view:
“In the closing stages of the 2009 war a mass and brutal genocide took place in the North. This is a truth that cannot be hidden. However, the Sinhala middle class psyche is not ready to accept the fact that what it cheered with much enthusiasm was a brutal genocide of this magnitude. It is by all means a traumatic experience. To detract from this the Sinhala middle class propounds two arguments. Either, these photos (such as Balachandran’s) are fabrications; if not, since ‘they’ have killed ‘our ones’ what happened to them is not unacceptable. The middle class knows well that both these arguments are fallacies. Either, they have to accept the ugly reality that what they assisted with their cheering is a brutal genocide; or, in order to escape that reality they have to come up with whatever argument which justifies their cheering. From what can be seen the Sinhala middle class, instead of facing the bitter reality, are in the process of refugees of a fantasy arrived at through a cluster of self-deceptive reasoning”.
[Written for the Nation]