By The Pepper Spray Club
Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam, leader of the All Ceylon Tamil Congress, wants to commemorate Thileepan. He brought this up and it caused a bit of a stir in Parliament. On September 26th a posted signed ‘LTTE’ was put up at the Iranamadu junction, Kilinochchi, calling state and private institutions to shut shop in a ‘hartal’ protesting the refusal to grant permission for a ‘Thileepan Commemoration.’
On the same day several representatives of Tamil political parties staged a satyagraha in the precincts of a kovil in Chavakachcheri domain the right to commemorate the dead.
First let’s talk ‘commemoration.’ Legit. Someone dies, friends and family lament. The aggrieved had a right to grieve. That’s basic. That’s civilized. Indeed, one doesn’t have to have been a relative or a friend to remember someone who has passed, to grieve over passing etc. No one should require anyone’s permission to feel, to love, to weep, to miss, to be anxious or distraught.
Right. Now let’s get to Thileepan. Real name: Rasaiah Parthipan. Born in 1963, Parthipan took on the nom de guerre ‘Thileepan’ after he joined the LTTE. He was shot in the stomach during the Vadamarachchi Operation in May 1987. He was going to die, some claim. Anyway, Thileepan undertook a ‘fast unto death’ in September the same year. This was after India stepped in to to bail out a beleaguered Prabakan and his gang of thugs via the Indo-Lanka Accord. Thileepan died on the 15th of September 1987.
Thileepan was a terrorist. Well, if you don’t want to use that word, let’s say he was ‘a political animal.’ He was a member of an armed group (decent enough, that term?). He caught a bullet. He decided to go on a hunger strike. That was a political decision. He died. His choices, his fast, his death and its commemoration are all POLITICAL. And those who choose that label cannot complain if the response is also political.
One can and should be humane and civilized to affirm the right to grieve the dead, regardless of the track record of the dead. At the same time it is ridiculous to expect one and all to retire ‘the political’ in the process, especially if you are leaving a HEFTY part of the story!
Take away Thileepan’s life story, his involvement with the LTTE, the fact that he was trained to kill, the fact that the LTTE was the world’s most rabid terrorist organization and you would find yourself in silly-season.