A Physically Challenged Ex-Combatant’s Battle for Democracy and Justice

‘War is not a solution. The war in Sri Lanka was only a result of the discrimination suffered by the Tamils.’ As an ex-LTTE combatant, Prabhakaran said now he believes that Tamils’ future should be decided by political solutions, not a reignited war.

In the last wartime, he witnessed the Tamil people were either dead or living in torture and suffering and he swore that he will never surrender. However, after a serious injury to his last leg, Prabhakaran was sent to hospital by the military and finally transferred to Vavuniya for treatment. He experienced the most difficult period of time in his life during the three-month stay in the Vavuniya hospital. The most discouraging thing was not hunger and the unhygienic environment, but the overwhelming loneliness in the nights and the uncertain future.

He once won respect from people as an LTTE cadre, but after discharge, everyone looked at him with doubts and disgust because he lost the both legs. The social status and power he has owned since his 13 years of age collapsed in a sudden.

But Prabhakaran has always been a fighter. Perhaps the means of his fights would change with different backgrounds; perhaps people can damage his body’s physical integrity, but his warm heart has never changed since his 13 years of age.

He was perplexed, but after he saw the new social issues such as drugs and sexual abuses arise in the post-war period and, as same as him, people lost their dignity and rights day after day, he determined to exert himself and do something for the society.

He thought about politics, but then discouraged by corruption. Many culprits associated with social issues and rights violations are supported by politicians. With regard to the political solutions, there were various proposals put forward by the government, but there was no consistency among them. He said, the Tamil politicians should take more responsibilities to correct this situation and fight for equal rights for the communities.

Prabhakaran finally decided to work in civil society for the disabled. After discharge, he has been saving money for the disabled families in need, from his business selling fish and vegetables and even the meager salaries of his ‘first job’ as a graphic designer after returning to the society. He said: ‘I can still move freely. I can work, but lots of disabled people cannot.’

He helps other disabled people run small businesses and teaches them computer skills. ‘People in our society sympathize with the disabled, but never seriously accept their talents,’ he said. ‘But people with disabilities have more perseverance and courage than anyone else.’

After 7 years of devotion, Prabhakaran is now leading an organization which has 300 disabled members and regaining his dignity. He is no longer a disabled person whom people are avoiding from and has become a respectable man whom villagers ask for advice when there is a difficulty or conflict.

Prabhakaran said, ‘we no longer need another war to deepen our suffering, but it does not mean that we give up fighting for rights and justice, peacefully and democratically.’

Unfortunately, the more involved in the civil society in the Northern Province, the more intelligence attention and interventions. But don’t these efforts for peace are only possible with more tolerance and freedom in our society?

Prabhakaran believes, to add a strong support for civil society movements for finding solutions for our communities, he needs to equip the disabled and ex-combatants with knowledge about democracy and governance,’ he said. ‘That is my next target.


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