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Remembering Maalathy

Photographs: Tamilnation.com

 

Today marks the 28th anniversary of the death of 2nd Lieutenant Maalathy.

Maalathy was the first female fighter in the armed struggle against the Sri Lankan state oppression to lose her life. Maalathy was killed at the age of 20, on the 10th of October 1987, during a confrontation with the Indian Peace Keeping Forces (IPKF) in Jaffna.

The following account is told by a cadre that was by her side.

"We were in our bunkers firing at the (Indian) army. Hundreds of Indian troops had jumped out of their vehicles and were firing as they moved towards us. Mortar shells were exploding everywhere. We knew the army was advancing quickly. Maalathy was shot in both legs. She couldn't move and she was bleeding profusely. Realising that she was mortally wounded, she swallowed cyanide."

 

"A decision had been made to withdraw because we were heavily out-numbered. Myself and another girl Viji went over to carry Maalathy. Maalathy refused to come with us. She begged us to leave her and asked us to withdraw. Nevertheless, we lifted Maalathy and carried her and when we arrived at a safe place she was dead."

(Women Fighters of Liberation Tigers, Adele Anne Balasingham, 1993, ISBN 1-897800-00-3)


A 1994 commemorative poster issued in the North-East.

 

 

In 2003, the LTTE issued a statement commemorating her death. “Liberation does not mean just freedom from foreign domination and tyranny, but also freedom from religious and gender discrimination and oppression of women,” the statement said.

A memorial statue was built commemorating Maalathy in 2004 and was subsequently destroyed after Sri Lankan military forces took over Killinochi. Her death was commemorated widely amongst the Tamil community in the North-East.