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'A Fleeting Moment In My Country': Interview with Dr N Malathy

14 January 2014

Tamil Guardian caught up with the author of A Fleeting Moment in My Country, Dr N Malathy, to spea a!out e"periences descri!ed in her !oo # Dr N Malathy, a Tamil diaspora acti$ist, currently wor ing as an analyst and programmer at the %ni$ersity of Cante!ury, has li$ed in New &ealand for o$er ' decades# (he spent ' years wor ing for $arious human rights and social welfare institutions, within the Tamil de)facto state in *anni from +,,- to +,,.# A Fleeting Moment /n My Country descri!es, Malathys e"perience and reflections of the 0TT1 administered de)facto state after returning to the region to engage in social welfare wor #

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(ee !elow for a summarised transcript of our inter$iew with Malathy# TG: What was your experience of the institutions that existed in Vanni during the de-facto state? DR N MA AT!": 2ell there was e$ery institution you could thin a state should

ha$e plus more# (ome astounding welfare centres a police force that had nearly half representation of women, a court force did that ha$e half representation of women### /t had a wide range of programmes from welfare centres to gi$ing small scale employment to women who needed them#3 4ou stop !eing ama5ed !y it and you accepted it, li e here /m in my country and here are all the institutions# That was 6uite a gradual enlightenment for me# 7ad it sur$i$ed / thin it would ha$e !een an ama5ing place#3 TG: What are your thoughts on a##egations of chi#d so#dier use $y the TT% and the way in which they were addressed? DR N MA AT!": The effect it 8the international campaign on child soldiers9 had on Tamil acti$ists was oppressi$e !ecause you didnt now how to deal with it !ecause there wasnt enough countering e$idence that came out from *anni### / thin due to lac of resources or otherwise it didnt happen#3 :;n the first day on one of my trips### / o!ser$ed a !ig scene where a <= year old girl was saying >/ want to stay with the 0TT1> and the mother was trying to ta e her away and there was a lot of shouting# And e$entually the girl stood her ground and the mother couldn>t physically drag her away# /t inda confused me, you now, what you hear in the 2estern media and what / was o!ser$ing#3 :/ had $ery intensi$e in$ol$ement in the child soldier issue# Then / met %N/C1F representati$es e$ery wee # Then you realise, that %N/C1F wasnt really wor ing for the children# / can state se$eral e"amples of the deceit carried out !y %N/C1F#3 :/ want to state one# This is a ?)year)old girl from @atticaloa, who made destitute !ecause of the tsunami# The 0TT1 too these destitute children when they were in @atticaloa and they ept them in a children>s homes there#A A%N/C1F had put all these children as 0TT1 recruitment# The youngest was a ?)year)old# 2hen / started wor ing on the %N/C1F list, / traced this girl and traced a lot of the other ones in the children>s homes# 2e told %N/C1F A7ere they are, go and see themA and they refused to remo$e them from the list, saying they would remo$e them only when they are reunited with their families# @ut the fact is the families didn>t e"ist and %N/C1F couldn>t trac down their families#A

AA couple of wee s after this con$ersation, it was international news, ) >The youngest person in the 0TT1 is ? years old#>A :That was 6uite an ama5ing thing# That Bust shows what they want to do, that e"ample is enough# 2hy would they say that unless their aim was to demonise the 0TT1C3 :1$eryone who is concerned 0TT1 child soldiers should now is the ;ptional Drotocol on Children in armed conflict### the first time they raised the age to <E for non)state armed actors#3 :@y then the 0TT1 had e"isted for +, years# 7ere is an organisation that grew up when the minimum recruitment age was <-### They were Bust !om!arded !y a demonising campaign rather than gi$ing the 0TT1 time to grow up to the new re6uirement### Actually they Fthe 0TT1G $ery serious and !y the end of +,,? the minimum age was <E#3 TG: !ow did the diaspora wor& to contri$ute to society in the Vanni? DR N MA AT!": The diaspora put in resources to create a lot of tertiary institutions mainly /T teaching, so that was 6uote well de$eloped# The *anni Tech was 6uite e"tensi$e, it was almost li e a uni$ersity, we had some diaspora teachers#3 :An education and s ills de$elopment centre for war affected children that had missed schooling for se$eral years was set up#3 :@asically you had a state which didnt generate enough re$enue to pro$ide the ser$ices it did# All of them couldnt !e 0TT1 mem!ers who were wor ing for free3 TG: Were the institutions a$#e to function with independence and credi$i#ity within the society? DR N MA AT!": Most of the institutions had a person in there that was a mem!er of the 0TT1# To me, their presence created a non)corrupt en$ironment#3 :The lac of a!use and the lac of corruption Fwas possi!leG !ecause there were 0TT1 mem!ers put in these institutions# ;therwise they functioned independently#A TG: What were your 'iews on the e'entua# proscription of diaspora funding directed to Vanni?

DR N MA AT!": A lot of Tamil people ga$e money to TH; FTamil Heha!ilitation ;rganisationG#3 :2hen / was there in +,,? there was a 7uman Hights 2atch report a!out the e"tortion of money F!y the 0TT1G# Iust li e the child soldier issue, the le$el of campaigning, it is a form of oppression on Tamils# 7ere you are gi$ing up your hard earned money to help destitute people ) children, women, education# And then you are told that you are funding terrorism# Not only are you told you are funding it, !ut that the 0TT1 e"torts money#3 :The way the 7uman rights watch report was written was so negati$e# The wording that was used painted a picture of a gruesome group that>s going and gra!!ing peoples nec s and saying AGi$e us money, or elseA# 7ow far from the truth can you state a case li e thatC This is Bust one of se$eral e"amples of the international campaign to paint a picture of the 0TT1 as such a gruesome thing that they were planning to destroy so the world would not !e outraged# /t was all in preparation for the destruction of the 0TT1#3 TG: Are there any experiences fro( wor&ing in the de-facto state that ha'e stuc& with you? DR N MA AT!": To me its the loss of what women ha$e gained that>s really painful# /t stri es you#3 :;ne of the things that immediately stri es you is how committed the staff were to ta ing care of the people### The relationship they had with the people there was definitely uni6ue#3 :/ got to now a lot of ci$ilian women and 0TT1 women# They were forceful in e"pressing $iews and ta ing actions# ;ne of the woman in *aani told me how the 0TT1 leader Dra!ha aran told her to learn to stand her point and !e stu!!orn# /t was a culture that was nurtured#3