|Diaspora’s bid to
mislead us will not succeed
Says S. P. Thamilselvan’s
widow of the late LTTE political wing leader S. P.
Thamilselvan, Shashirekha in an exclusive interview with The
Nation goes back to her youth, learning Bharata Natyam,
becoming a dancing teacher, meeting with the LTTE leader
Prabhakaran and Thamilselvan. She recounts her experiences
in the terrorist group-controlled north including the fate
that befell her. The unknown agonies she suffered after the
death of her husband and the plight all Tamil people fell
into under the LTTE and the warning that the Tamil diaspora
is trying to drag the Tamil people into danger and
destruction are told by her in this candid interview.
By Chamara Lakshan
Following are the highlights of the interview:
Question: Could you recount the experiences of your
childhood and early youth?
I was born at Bambalapitiya, Colombo and our family had
seven members including our parents. My father had a shop
opposite the Majestic City shopping mall. My mother was a
housewife. I studied at St.Anthony’s Girls School up to
Q: Why did you leave school at that grade?
We left Colombo after the 1983 Black July and went to live
in Chullipuram, Jaffna.
Q: Did your family leave Colombo for fear as you were
victims of violence of the Black July?
Mobs set fire to our shop during that time and we went back
to Jaffna out of fear.
Q: After going back to Jaffna did you go back to
I was admitted to Vaddukoddai Vidyalaya where I studied up
to the GCE Ordinary Level.
Q: Why didn’t you continue your studies after the GCE
At school I became interested in dancing. I studied for
dancing examinations and passed the level four exam. I
became a dancing teacher but my parents had decided to
return to Colombo by that time. My parents deciding to
return to Colombo was one of the reasons that prevented me
from going up for higher education. When they returned to
Colombo I stayed back at Nallur. While I was conducting
dancing classes I also took part in the public performances
organised by the LTTE at that time.
Q: What made you stay back in Jaffna while your
parents returned to Colombo?
It was about the year 1990 and my desire for higher
education was lost. All I wanted to do was to further my
career in dancing and achieve a high position in dancing. At
the same time I was becoming sympathetic towards the LTTE.
Therefore I decided to remain and refused to join my
parents. My parents became very angry with me and they came
to Colombo, angered over my decision.
Q: Did you continue to have relations with your
parents after they came back to Colombo?
No. For a long period I did not have any relations with my
family. I stayed with a friend of mine Revathi at Nallur.
She was also a dancing teacher. I did Bharatha Natyam.
Q: How did you come to join the LTTE?
No. At the beginning I had not joined the LTTE. But when
they invited me to perform in their public shows I accepted
such invitations. During that time the area was under the
control of the LTTE. When the Army recaptured Jaffna I went
to the Vanni. Till I got married I had taken part in all the
public shows put on by the LTTE.
Q: Why did you follow the LTTE into the Vanni. You
could have remained in the area recaptured by the army?
Since I had lived in an area controlled by the LTTE I went
to all the other areas that they controlled. On the other
hand they sent me a number of invitations to take part in
the public performances as a dancer.
Q: Did the LTTE pay you well for dancing in their
At that time I was paid three or four thousand rupees
for each show and at that time I had enough money. Sometimes
they presented clothes or dresses but there were times when
I was not paid anything.
Q: It appears that you were a highly skilled dancer
but it is difficult to understand how you came to be
associated with a killer terrorist group. Any comment?
Since I had been living in an area under the control of the
LTTE I did not feel very much to go to an area controlled by
the army. On the other hand it was necessary for anyone
living in a LTTE controlled area to obtain a permit to enter
an area under the army and that was difficult. These were
the reasons that made me remain in LTTE controlled areas.
Q: From when were you, Shashirekha, came to be known
After I got married to Thamilselvan.
Q: How did you come to know Thamilselvan?
I met him at a public performance and later the LTTE’s Anton
Balasingham brought the proposal to marry Thamilchelvan.
Q: By that time he had become a physically disabled
Though he was disabled he had an artificial leg.
Q: What are your reminiscences of marriage to
Our marriage took place suddenly. Within a month after
Balasingham brought the marriage proposal we were married.
Prabhakaran and his wife Madivadini acted as the parents of
Thamilselvan. Anton Balasingham and Adele acted as my
parents. At that time Balasingham’s kidney ailment had
turned severe and he needed to go abroad for treatment.
Therefore he insisted that the marriage should take place
soon. Even Thamilselvan’s family was not aware that we were
getting married. When his mother who was living abroad had
asked why she was not informed earlier Thamilselvan had said
that he too was made aware only four days before the
Q: Where did the marriage take place?
It was at Pudukudirippu in the house Anton Balasingham
was living. The members of Prabhakaran’s family including
the parents of his wife Madivadini, Karuna Amman and many
others were present. Nadesan was the registrar of the
Q: Did Prabhakaran and others in the LTTE have a frame
of mind to take part or view public performances like
They used to come to see such shows.
Q: After your marriage did the LTTE help you?
We were given a house to live in but there was no
special security though my husband had four security men
accompanying him. When he came back home they came to leave
him and when he went out they accompanied him.
Q: What sort of person was Thamilselvan?
He was a calm person with whom anything could be discussed.
He told me to continue my dancing career and said I should
be able to stand on my own.
Q: What sort of relations did you have with the wives
of other LTTE leaders?
There was nothing special about them. We only met at
functions and public events. Soosai’s family was good but
the families of other leaders cannot be described as ones
with an understanding. But Prabhakaran’s family had a very
close association with us.
Q: Weren’t you aware that the families of leaders
lived in luxury? Did your family also enjoy such luxuries?
We were given houses by the organisation. When I was
pregnant with our first child we were given a two-roomed
house at Pudukudirippu but it was not a luxurious dwelling.
Q: You said you came from a high caste family in the
north and Thamilselvan from the barber caste. Was that not a
problem for your marriage?
I was aware that he came from that caste but I did not
consider that a problem.
Q: When your parents became aware of your marriage
what was their reaction?
They got afraid. At that time I was working for Save the
Children Fund but no one was aware that I was Thamilselvan’s
wife. I sent a message to my mother through another person
from my village who too was working for Save the Children
Fund. I asked him to give the message about my marriage when
he came to Colombo.
Q: What are your brothers and sisters who had had
higher education in the universities of the south doing now?
They are living abroad. But my parents are now living with
Q: Do you remember that Thamilselvan went abroad to
take part in peace talks several times. When he came back
did he discuss things that happened at such talks?
He was never in the habit of discussing anything in
connection with the activities of the organization.
Sometimes when leaders of the LTTE were away from home for
long their wives wrote letters to Prabhakaran complaining
about their long absence but I never did such things.
Q: There was a rumour that Thamilselvan once worked as
a barber at Kotahena. Is that true?
No he never worked in Colombo as a barber because he had
joined the LTTE when he was only 16. He was the youngest
child of the family, the mother’s pet. Others of his family
were dark complexioned but he was fair complexioned and he
had never been employed anywhere.
Q: How did you hear about the death of Thamilselvan
and what happened afterwards?
When the news reached us that he was killed I was not taken
to the place where the tragedy occurred. Though the LTTE
sent several persons there they did not tell me anything
about it on their return. Some of those who went there did
not come back but about 9.30 in the night of that day one
LTTE cadre who came to see us told me that my husband had
died. He said he did not see his remains but the bunker was
completely destroyed. His remains were later taken to his
brother’s house in Kilinochchi. I reached the house around
11 a.m. and I could not stop crying but I called him my
father when I was crying as I did not know what the LTTE had
told the media about my husband’s death.
Q: What was Prabhakaran’s emotion when he came to pay
his last respects to Thamilselvan?
He was visibly moved and he was not in a frame of mind to
speak to us. His face betrayed his emotions as he had
implicit trust in my husband.
Q: After the demise of your husband did the LTTE or
any leader of the LTTE see to the welfare or feelings of
No one came to see us. One month after the death of my
husband I requested one of the leaders of the LTTE women’s
wing Rekha to send our family including my parents to India
and she said LTTE leader Prabharkaran did not agree to
accede to our request. She said the leader has said it could
be done only after one year. Then in desperation I requested
that we be allowed to go to army controlled area but I was
told that the leadership would inform me of their decision
in a few days. But the LTTE neglected me and my children and
after the death of my husband the leaders of the LTTE became
Q: Do you say that your family was kept in the area
controlled under compulsion?
Yes, that is true. But I was aware that the end of the LTTE
was almost certain. By May 2009 the LTTE did not tell our
people that they were facing defeat and most of the leaders
who were on the same status as my husband including
Prabhakaran’s son Charles Anthony were killed.
Q: How did you really come into the army controlled
area at the final phase of the armed conflict?
When I was in a corner crying one young man came and asked
me whether I was the widow of Thamilselvan and he
volunteered to escort me to the army controlled area. Since
firing shells were going on at the time I with my children
got into a bunker in the LTTE area with no one to look after
us for more than three hours and I saw that all Tamil
civilians were making their way to the army controlled area
but it was not easy as both sides were still fighting with
light and heavy guns. But after some time we started fleeing
from the LTTE controlled area into the army controlled area
and all of us were in a queue to reach safety.
Q: When you finally reached the army controlled area
did you carry white flags of surrender?
No one carried white flags and came to surrender to the
army. The story that some LTTE leaders came with white flags
is not at all true. When we reached the side controlled by
the army they did not harass us and we felt secure from the
way they treated us but before that we were living between
life and death. The Sri Lanka armed forces have treated us
very well and afforded us all the facilities we never had
before that. Today we are living happily with my children
who are continuing their education well. My parents are also
living with me.
The story about certain LTTE leaders coming to surrender
raising white flags is a fairy tale. None came to surrender
with white flags. Today as a Tamil I have to say that we
don’t need any conflict with the others in Sri Lanka and I
would like to tell the Tamil diaspora that their activities
will not benefit the Sri Lankan Tamil people. The diaspora
by their activities is trying to destroy the Tamil people
and I also would like to tell them that we do not need a
We are being looked after well by the government and the
armed forces of Sri Lanka but the diaspora who are living
abroad do not know that the Sri Lankan Tamil people do not
need any further armed conflicts. I have deep faith in my
religion Hinduism and I would continue to live with my
children according to the tenets of my religion and I would
like to tell the Tamil diaspora that their efforts to
mislead our people will not succeed.