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Wake me up, when…

FOR the last 20 years of my life, the TV has never disappointed me with its news. Day after day, years after years, like a constant physics theory, news of death and destruction of Palestine and Sri Lanka continues. Some of us take it as granted that these things will never stop.

But some recent events followed by the controversial death of “Velupillai Prabhakaran”, founder and leader of “Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam” (LTTE), the world's attention is once again concentrated on the battlefield in Sri Lanka. With the death of the founding leader of one of the deadliest terrorist organizations, Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa declared victory over the separatist movement. What will be the consequences and aftermath of this war? Despite the claim of victory and the death of Prabhakaran, other leaders of LTTE remain undercover and hundreds of thousands of civilians are still either on the move or in camps for the internally displaced.

Beginning July 23 1983, there has been an on-and-off civil war between the Government and the LTTE (also known as the Tamil Tigers). The history of LTTE goes even long before the civil war started. Founded in May 1976, it has actively waged a violent secessionist campaign seeking to create an independent Tamil state in the north and east of Sri Lanka. In the point of view of LTTE, they are fighting to protect the country's Tamil minority from discrimination of the Sinhalese, which is the main ethnic group in Sri Lanka and also majority of the government since independence.

During the height of their power LTTE possessed a well-developed militia, notorious for having committed atrocities against civilians, including abductions and targeted attacks or carrying out various high profile attacks, including assassinations. They have carried out over 170 suicide attacks, more than any other terrorist organization in the world, and the suicide attack has become a trademark of the LTTE.

As the conflict grew within the island of Sri Lanka the heat wave of the civil war started to affect the south Asian territory. India became involved in the conflict in the 1980s. The majority of the south Indian population is Tamil. It is particularly strong in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, where ethnic kinship led to strong support for independence for Sri Lankan Tamils. And it is believed that by supporting Sri Lankan militant groups, the Indian government hoped to keep the Tamil independence movement divided and be able to exert overt control over it.

In '90s, support for the LTTE in India dropped considerably as the biggest blow over Indian politics came with the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. The LTTE suicide bomber “Thenmozhi Rajaratnam” also known as “Tanu” carried out the assassination. According to Indian press, Prabhakaran decided to eliminate Gandhi as he considered Gandhi to be against the Tamil liberation struggle. Prabhakaran feared that Gandhi might re-induct the peacekeeping operation in Sri Lanka.

As violence continued in Sri Lanka, LTTE suicide and time bombs were exploded numerous times in populated city areas and public transport in the south of the country, killing hundreds of civilians. But with in all these years peacekeeping processes were giving their best effort to extinguish this Civil war. Significant peace movement developed in the late 1990s. Many humanitarian organizations are working in peace camps, conferences, trainings and peace meditations to bridge the two sides at all levels. February 2000, Norway was asked to mediate conversation between both sides. After the attacks of 9/11, LTTE began declared their willingness for a peaceful settlement to the conflict. It was believed that LTTE took this action a for fear of international pressure and the US support of the Sri Lankan Government as part of the War on Terror.

On December 26 2004, the Indian Ocean tsunami hit Sri Lanka, killing more than 30,000 people, and leaving many more homeless. Immediately following the tsunami there was a marked decrease in violence in the war affected region. Meanwhile, there was a major fracture between the northern and eastern wings of the LTTE. On May 16, 2009, Sri Lankan troops broke through LTTE defenses and captured the last section of coastline held by Tamil Tiger rebels. The Army reported it was set to "clear" remaining rebel-held land within days. Following that day the LTTE finally admitted defeat on May 17. And by the death of Velupillai Prabhakaran in the morning of May 18th the Civil war of Sri Lanka is finally coming to an end.

As Georges Clemenceau said, “War is a series of catastrophes that results in a victory.” Lankan government may have won the war but the cost was unimaginable, killing over 80,000 people. The deaths include 27,639 Tamil fighters, 21,066 Sri Lankan soldiers, 1,000 Sri Lankan police, 1,500 Indian soldiers, and tens of thousands of civilians. With the media banned from the war zone, there are very few sources of information on civilian casualties. Now the pressure is on the Sri Lankan government to begin to heal the wounds by finding a political solution to the Tamils' predicament. And everyone agrees, that will be a difficult task.

By Zabir Hasan

A turtle story

FINALLY, the long hours of waiting would pay off. I tried to stop my hands from trembling, fearing it might disturb my fishing rod. I tried to focus, waiting for the right time to make my move. I was excited; my anticipation and hopes flying high. “Was it a big fish? Would it make do for lunch?” Then, as I pulled up my fishing rod, my eyes frantically tried to comprehend what I had caught. A turtle!

That was the first time I caught something. I was eight years old then. The disappointment of not being able to catch a fish was replaced with the joy of possessing a cute little turtle. And the joy shot up when my mom gave me permission to bring it home!

The turtle was my biggest asset, my proudest possession, my best friend. I spent hours watching him in the aquarium, and on the small wooden plank above the water, where he took rest when he got tired of swimming. The turtle swept away all my toys, including my favourite G. I. Joe. I named him Raphael, inspired from one of the Ninja Turtles characters, Raphael, or simply, Raph. Raph, my Ninja Turtle. Raph, the aggressive; Raph the fighter; Raph, the fiercest and yet so emotional.

I took him to my annual science project and he was splendid. I got popular at school and in my neighbourhood, among my friends, cousins and teachers. Sure, you can get a turtle from a pet store, but I was unique: I got him on my own, directly from a pond. And after all, he was not just any turtle. He was Raphael!

Many offers came pouring in. “Hey can I borrow him for a day? I'll do math homework for you”, said one. “Can't I just buy it from you?” asked an insensitive brat. “My elder brother knows a bit of fighting. Why don't you give Raphael to me for a week; he'll learn a few new tricks from my brother”, suggested a manipulative friend.

Perhaps, nothing lasts forever. After a year, Raphael fell sick. He did not look good. He was drowsy most of the time; lost his appetite and his colour turned pale. A vet was called in. I was too young to grasp what the problem was, but he advised to let my turtle go; he also didn't like the idea of such a small kid handling a turtle, particularly a sick one. My dad was also concerned about my grades falling due to the huge chunk of time I spent playing with the turtle and not concentrating on my studies.

A horrifying decision was made: the turtle must go. I was heart-broken. But I knew Raphael was in pain. But still, I was adamant. Finally, my mom approached me and spoke in my language. “If you want your friend to be happy, you have to let him go”, she began. “Everybody has to work; you have to study, and Raphael must be out there fighting against the evil and protect the world.”

I was back in the same pond. I carefully released Raphael. He walked into the water. Then, I thought he hesitated for a moment and turned to me. But after a second he swam away, not looking back even once, disappearing into the cloudy and greenish pond water. “Bye Raph. Say hi to your Ninja friends- Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Donatello”. A drop of tear on my cheek marked the end of my turtle story…

By M H Haider

Book review

Maximum Ride -
The Angel Experiment

EVEN before big screen hits like 'Honey' and 'The Fantastic Four' franchise, Jessica Alba blazed into the silver screen as the butt-kicking transgenic Max Guevara in James Cameron's Dark Angel, a short-lived but well-loved biopunk/cyberpunk sci-fi series. The plot, set in 2019, in a post-terrorist attack Third World USA, involved a secret government research institute called Manticore, , where human genes were spliced and combined with animal genes to create super-soldiers. A small group of the experimental mutants, including Max, escape from this place, and for the two seasons that the show lasted, had to constantly fight recapture and annihilation by the government forces.

Five years later, James Patterson revisited this theme with his Maximum Ride series, which quickly gained enough popularity to spawn a manga series, and even has a movie in the works. The basic premise is the same: Maximum 'Max' Ride, and her Flock, are 98% human and 2% bird transgenics, on the run from the School, the covert research institute that they hatched in and escaped from. On the hunt for the bird-people are the Erasers, another of the School's experiments: half wolf, half human.

The first book in the series, The Angel Experiment, opens with the telepathically gifted Angel, the youngest member of the Flock, being kidnapped by the Erasers. The Flock set off in pursuit of their lost sib , which takes them closer to the very School that they had once run away from. Early on, Max, 14 narrates the story, introducing us to her 'family': the broody Fang, the blind explosives expert Iggy, the talkative Nudge, the precocious Gazzy, and of course, Angel. When the flock splits up, the narrative also branches out to show different sides of the story. So we have Gazzy and Iggy guarding Flock's home, ultimately blowing up the place to fly out and join the others. We have Fang and Nudge flying with the eagles as they wait for Max, who gets injured and has a brief, sweet taste of what real family life is like. We also have Angel, who is stuck in the School, enduring painful experiments.

When the Flock is finally reunited at the School, they come face to face with a nasty surprise. With no home to return to once they break out again, their mission changes: now they have to discover their true origins and the extent of their developing abilities. The job is not easy, not with the Erasers , always snapping at their heels.

For a story that reads like a complete rip-off of Dark Angel, it is actually a pretty compelling book. The members of the Flock are mere children, and Patterson has done a realistic job of sounding like a scared teenager trying be tough and nonchalant. Considering the pickings at the local bookstores, it's safer to try looking for the e-book version. If you do plan to get it, try also getting hold of Holly Brook's "What I wouldn't give" which is the official soundtrack to this book.

By Sabrina F Ahmad



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