'Tigers Don’t Confess' - a novel by Visakesa Chandrasekaram; Published by Frog Books of India; 307 pages

Book reviewed by Harshini de Alwis

Since the conclusion of the civil war in Sri Lanka in 2009, its diasporic writers have begun to spawn works encompassing diverse facets of its long-drawn out ethnic conflict.  VisakesaChandrasekaram’s ‘Tigers Don’t Confess’ is one such work which revolves around the proscribed terrorist group - the LTTE: Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, best known as the Tamil Tigers.

Chandrasekaram, a human rights lawyer and a previous winner of the Gratiaen Prize in Sri Lanka, has woven an intriguing tale encompassing some of the Tigers’ horrific but brilliantly masterminded missions, cunning police and terrorist investigations with an array of courtroom drama connecting the scenes together.  Written in drama cum thriller genre, the writer tackles epic subjects of terror and calamity, interlacing fiction with true-life past events in Sri Lanka’s tumultuous political history. 

The story chronicles events in the mid-90s, highlighting a miscarriage of justice which finds Kumaran, a Tamil university student accused of being a terrorist and thrown in jail after the police falsely procure his confession.  Amidst numerous other storylines, the plot revolves around how the lawyers dissect this confession, unearth the truth and finally free him.  While justice prevails in the end, it comes at the cost of horrendous torture endured by Kumaran in prison, the years of loss to his personal and academic life and the anguish suffered by those dearest to him.  

Knitted in to the plot are also the “forbidden love affairs” of Kumaran and Ruwan, Thyaga and Nalin – interracial relationships which add another dimension to the story, offering a chance at hope and reconciliation. 

Chandrasekaram is interested in delving in to his characters’ past events and personal circumstances in order to explain why they opted to join the LTTE in the first place.  It is wrong to dismiss our decades-long complex racial conflict as black and white and attribute blame only to one side – however, the story reminds us of our easy penchant of fitting people in to pigeonholes and branding them so that we can disregard their individual tragedies; how we turn a blind eye to all the atrocities that are committed in the name of righteousness on both sides of the ethnic fence.  The root causes for our national predicaments are often not resolved as they do not suit our power hungry pseudo-Buddhist politicians.  

While at times, the narrator’s voice appears somewhat broken and in disarray and the writing could have gained positively by more editing and proofreading, ‘Tigers Don’t Confess’ is a fitting narrative for our volatile times.

Available at :VijithaYapa Bookshop, Barefoot, Colombo or Frog Books / Leadstart Publishing  (http://www.leadstartcorp.com)



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