Sharika Thiranagama rides a bike in emulation of her mother Rajani Thiranagama nee Rajasingam for the biographical documentary NO MORE TEARS
As the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka escalated from July 1983 and the Tamil liberation struggle developed along several militant paths, Tamils throughout the island were placed in a difficult position. The focus here is on the sentiments of those identified in the census as “Sri Lanka Tamils” as distinct from “Indian Tamils” – wherever they resided in the island.
But within this framework the emphasis is on those Sri Lankan Tamils who resided in the northern and eastern parts during the period extending from August 1988 to October 1992, the time spanned by the first volume in Ben Bavinck’s diaries. Note, here, that Bavinck was a fluent Tamil speaker and because of his long experience in the Jaffna Peninsula in the 1950s-70s he was, as Val Daniel suggests, a de facto Tamil in sentiment.
However, he did not look Tamil. On several occasions he was treated as a foreign NGO person or even as “a foreign dignitary.” In the period of his diary, moreover, he was attached to the National Christian Council and was undertaking welfare and relief measures throughout the island. As such, he was able to intervene on behalf of people who were at the receiving end of the conflict. A good part of this work took him to the north on many occasions. Therefore his dairy extracts reveal the thinking of many of his friends, acquaintances and others in this region during the period of warfare between the Tigers and the Indian Peace Keeping Force (till late 1989) and, thereafter during the short interregnum of peace negotiations from January to April 1990 and, thirdly, the renewal of war between the LTTE and the government of Lanka (GoSL) from June 1990 onwards.
A theatrical dramatization of the murder of Rajani Thiranagama by the National Film Board of Canada with Sharika Thiranagama in the role
His information, therefore, is a voice of his times and conveys invaluable information. It should not be dismissed as “gossip,” though of course some of the reportage has to be treated cautiously as second-hand or third-hand reportage of events that Bavinck did not witness himself. These tales, clearly, must be sifted and evaluated in the light of other contemporaneous information Continue reading