During my recent visit to Jaffna Peninsula, Sri Lanka, I experienced a lot of mixed emotions, and had many thoughts;
Part IV – My First Visit to Jaffna Peninsula, Sri Lanka (Continued…)
We have gotten into a bus to head home. Sundhar and I sat in the last row, and next to us was a middle aged, formally dressed Gent. He spoke in Tamil with Sundhar. Then he turned to me and spoke excellent Sinhalala and English. He explained how the bus works;
- The bus that we were on stopped at a specific place
- We were to get off that bus, go through a bags check-point run by Sri Lankan Army
- Once a clearance has been given, walk a 500m or so distance
- Go through LTTE check-point, where some form of paperwork was to be shown
- Once clearance has been given, board the next available bus
- Get off at a specific place
- Walk a 500m or so distance
- Go through a bags check-point run by Sri Lankan Army
- Once clearance has been given we were free to go South!
After 16 years, I cannot remember exact suburb involved in all of this, but 4 suburb names rings a bells in my memory:
We managed to sit on the last row of seats in our first leg. A well mannered gentleman who spoke English, Tamil, and Sinhala fluently, started to converse with us. It was evident that he was happy that two young University boys, one from each of the races that engaged in a war for over 20 years at the time,
He was a very kind man. I recall discussing the “problem” of war. He was also attempting to show me various landmarks and areas that I had never seen. It felt so unreal, I never imagined I would be in Jaffna as a 21/22 year old, experiencing what I experienced.
We reached the end of first leg, and we got off the bus, and walked from Army controlled area to LTTE controlled area. The border check point was quite large, but I recall it being built using trees trunks, and dried palm leaf roofs.
I have never seen such discipline in Sri Lanka before. The lines were followed, and there was what appear to be law and order, and respect for one another.
I was discussing about this with Sundhar. The guy who was our neighbouring passenger since we left Jaffna, heard this conversation and added:
We all know the penalty if we do not follow the lines or show respect. It has happened before. We get asked to go back home and come the next day.
I was shocked to find out the gentle, yet annoying, but seemingly effective law enforcement.
Before proceeding to our bus, we had to fill out a form. Everything was written in Tamil. So Sundhar filled up the forms for both of us.
The officer who was meant to be checking the paperwork, casually sitting on a desk. The usual heart skipping a beat happened, but this time I’m sure it did a couple extra on the name of fear.
He didn’t have both legs. But his physique looked as if he continued to be engaged in physical activity.
When I approached him. Based on the questions he asked, I realised Sundhar had fucked up when filling the forms. I was so angry with him
How could he fuck up here, out of all places. Not to mention I have no idea what’s going on.
But, he managed to explain the situation, and with a beautiful full smile the LTTE dude asked me (via Sundhar)
Did you enjoy your stay?
Did my people treat you well?
My previous reference to LTTE soldiers were when they showed parts of the war, or pieces of a given suicide bomber. Or a solider who had consumed cianide. It was well known that this group was ready to die, and one of the infamous weapons used by them, human-bomb, or suicide bombing. Somehow these references and the hot dude with a beautiful smile asking me
Did you enjoy your stay?
Did my people treat you well?
did not align.
I am glad I met them and had a proper human interaction, outside of the battlefield.
I have had a lot of interactions with the Sri Lankan Army, and other forces. Generally speaking, very nice blokes who are quite disciplined. It was common knowledge about their discipline, and human approach when dealing with situations, especially seen during the JVP insurgency in 1987-1990, being far superior to that of the Sri Lankan police force.
But this was the first time, I was face to face “officially” with LTTE soldiers.
For me both groups consisted of young, passionate, high energy, patriotic individuals. Mostly boys l men. We had cultural similarities, as well as differences. The government forces had a more clean-cut, tailored, professional look, funded by the government funds, while the LTTE had a village / casual look about them.
How many from both parties died? God only knows.
The Bus ride was good. We had an LTTE soldier riding with us. Everything was prim and proper. We stopped at a town, Omantha, if I’m not mistaken, for some tea. It was quite a basic town, maybe due to war.
Then we had to switch back again to Government run area, where we had more paperwork, checkpoints. I was quite used to army checkpoint at home, so this also indicated the end of my adventure with Sundhar.
I’m sure I fought again with him about his mad rush to get home. In both my trips with him, one to Trincomalee and this one to Jaffna, the last leg, he starts running as if the last bus/train has been waiting for us.
Today – 15th August 2020
I had started writing this series while I was holidaying in Sri Lanka in late 2017/early 2018. Somehow I had given up on the 5 article blog post I had planned.
I may change how I approach the finale. Let’s see. I do remember what triggered me to write a blog post. I had plenty to winge about, the changed town I saw.
Hopefully, I’d take a more mature approach to the last article of this series.
Watch the space.
– Nim –