Queen Mary Hospital
"The Broken Palmyra" is a very disturbing account of what has gone on, indeed what is still going on, in the North of Sri Lanka. It documents in painful detail what the Sri Lankan government and the Indian "Peace-Keepers" have been doing and, more informatively, what our "heroes" in the various militant movements (and even the non-militant politicians) are really like. Not what they pretend to be, but what they really are. Not what our biases, hopes and imagination make them to be, but what they are. No person or group is spared, and no information suppressed for fear of offending a particular interest. The militant groups, the Indian army and the Sri Lankan army, have a charge to answer to. It is the assassination of one of the authors. We may not know who killed Dr. Rajani Thiranagama, but we must certainly know why she was killed. She was killed because of her human rights work and her contribution to "The Broken Palmyra". It was a warning to the others that the totalitarian regime that has established itself in Jaffna, whatever its changing label may be, is not to be challenged, questioned or exposed. Rajani's murderers were trying to destroy a lot more than an outstanding daughter of Jaffna who has done so much for her people. For this reason alone, as someone concerned with the plight of the Tamil people, I am delighted to see the publication of this book.
A "liberation struggle" is to do with people, with freeing them from oppression, and with decreasing the violation of internationally accepted human rights. If the converse is being established in the name of liberation, then concerned people must question what is going on. "The Broken Palmyra" documents what we have all known, but not had the courage to say - that the civilian population has been cannon fodder in a despicable power struggle. Across the country, the Rule of Law has been replaced by the Rule of the Armed Hoodlum. If Sri Lanka is to return to civilisation, what is going on in the country will have to be exposed. With internationally credible human rights groups such as Amnesty International expelled from the country and the media gagged or intimidated by the State and by armed groups, it takes outstandingly courageous people to publish what really is going on. As a Sinhalese, my only regret is that we in the South have not been able to come up with a group who are prepared to write a similar account of what is going on in the rest of the country.
The first question that must pass through the minds of anyone who reads this incredible book is, "How reliable is it? How accurate is the information?" Those of us who have had the privilege of knowing the authors would have no difficulty in answering this question. The authors, senior members of the academic staff of Jaffna University, are people of indisputable honesty and integrity who have made unbelievable efforts to check their facts. The methods they have used to collect the data underscore their determination to sort out fact from fiction and present the situation as it is, not what people imagine it to be. ".....members of the U.T.H.R. worked both as a team and some times as individuals to visit places where incidents occurred, interview eye witnesses and to check what actually happened." They have presented their findings in a frank and a fearless manner with no bias towards one or other of the pressure groups. If the incidents reported in "The Broken Palmyra" conflict with the versions put out by the militant groups or the State (whether Sri Lankan or Indian), I would personally have no difficulty in choosing which version to believe. Such is the integrity and credibility of the authors.
No worthwhile contribution to solving the mess in Sri Lanka can be made by those such as the writer of this Foreword and the thousands of other Sri Lankans who have not had the courage to stay in Sri Lanka. It can only be made by those such as the authors of "The Broken Palmyra" who have the courage, determination and patriotism to stay where they are needed and say what is right rather than what is convenient or acceptable to some power base. That is what integrity and true leadership is all about. The "Broken Palmyra" is compulsory reading for anyone who is interested in the future of Sri Lanka. I have no doubt that the authors will be condemned by Tamil fanatics as "traitors to the Tamil cause" for exposing what is going on in Jaffna in the name of "liberation", "peace-keeping" or "national security." It is hoped that when sanity returns, the authors of this exceptional book will be recognised as true patriots (of the non-pseudo variety) and their work an outstanding contribution aimed at preventing the establishment of anarchy in Sri Lanka.
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