2nd Lt Malathi – Ltte First Woman Martyr
Peter Schalk, 11 October 1996
I saw that all Ilavar in Tamililam commemorated Malati yesterday. I regret that I never came to know her personally, but I have collected some information about her from printed sources.
Malati was the first women to die in battle (in the age of 20) and therefore she is honoured by the Ilavar with the epithet: “The first woman warrior (porali) that embraced heroic death (viramaranattai) in the India-Tamililam war”.
She died on 10 October 1987 in Kopay, Yalppnam, in a confrontation with the IPKF. She was not only the first woman, she was among among the first to die in that war against the IPKF. She was fatally wounded and took cyanide.
Her death story is told by Janani who herself was active on the battle front for six years:
“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. Malati 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 Malati. Malati refused to come with us. She begged us to leave her and asked us to withdraw. Nevertheless, we lifted Malati and carried her and when we arrived at a safe place she was dead”.
I have seen myself that in the LTTE-office for Great Heroes at Kokkuvil, Yalppnam, there was a big painting of Malati symmetrically placed on the left of a Tiger emblem, and with a big painting of Cankar placed on the right of that emblem. (I have a photo of this arrangement). The text accompanying the painting of Malati says: “The first woman being a Great Hero (mutal pen mavirar) who attained heroic death (viraccavaitta) in our Ilam liberation war (vitutalaipporattatta)”.
The painting was made in 1989 for the second year’s commemoration of her demise (in 1989).
The 17th death anniversary of 2nd Lieutenant Malathi was observed throughout Jaffna district Sunday. The father of 2nd Lt. Malathi garlanded the memorial of her daughter constructed at the site in Kopay where she died in the battle with the Indian Army Sunday evening, sources said.
Ms Kalyani, Vadamaradchchi Sea Tigers Head, Jaffna district parliamentarian Mr.K.Sivanesan and several others paid homage to 2nd Lt.Malathi by garlanding the memorial, sources said
Thereafter the photograph of 2nd Lt.Malathi was taken in a procession with school bands in attendance to the premises of Kopay Kandasamy Temple and kept on a special dais for paying homage. Large number of students, parents and members of public attended the event, sources said
TEEDOR Jaffna district head Mr.C.Theva lit the common flame of sacrifice and the Thamileelam national flag was hoisted by Ms Kaiyalvilzi, head of the Jaffna district women wing of the LTTE. The mother of martyr Major Sothia, the first woman commander of the LTTE lit the flame of sacrifice and garlanded the photograph of 2nd Lt.Malathi.
Later a meeting was held presided by Ms Vethavali Kandiah. Several leading personalities and LTTE activists spoke.
Malathy Memorial opened in Kilinochchi, [TamilNet, October 10, 2004]
Memorial Statue of 2nd Lt.Malathy was opened in Kilinochchi commemorating her seventeeth anniversary at 10 am Sunday in a ceremony presided by Deputy Director in charge of Heroes Cemetary, Thamilarasi, sources from Vanni said. Mother of three LTTE martyrs, Ms Christinamma Thiyagam and her husband Pon Thiyagam lit the common ceremoniral flame.
Deputy Head of LTTE’s Political Wing, Thangan, hoisted the Tamil Eelam flag. Colonel Theepan and Special Commander of Malathy Brigade, Vithusha unveiled the Malathy Memorial.
Pedurupillai. a father of LTTE martyr, Director of Sencholai, Sudar Mahal, Head of Lt.Col.Ponnamman Mining Unit , Navanithy, Administrative Head of Tamil Rehabilitation Organization, Amitab, Head of Kilinochchi district Women’s Wing, Poovili and Architect of the Memorial Naavannan paid floral tribute to Malathi Memorial.
Special commander of LTTE Women’s Sea Tigers Wing, Viduthalai, residents of Kilinochchi, LTTE commanders and fighters then paid their tribute. LTTE Head of Women’s Political Wing, Thamilini concluded the event with vote of thanks for the attendees.
Adele Balasingham in “Women Fighters of Liberation Tigers” …
“The Indo- LTTE war broke out on the 10th October1987. On the very first day of the war, the LTTE women unit confronted the Indian troops at the strategic junction of Kopay, a village 5 kilometers from the Jaffna city. As a convoy of Indian troops advanced along the Navatkuli-Kopay Road the LTTE women fighters encamped at Kopay were prepared to confront a powerful force.
The women fighters were near the Kopay junction in defensive positions when a convoy of Indian troops arrived in the black of the night. Hundreds of troops jumped out of their vehicles and started to advance towards the women fighter’s positions. Heavy fighting broke out. Our women cadres fought hard, putting up fierce resistance against a formidable contingent with superior firepower. In that clash Malathy died. Malathy was the first women fighter to die in battle. Janani, a veteran of many battles, takes up the story of Malathy’s death.
“We were in our bunkers firing at the army. Hundreds of Indian troops had jumped out of their vehicles and were firing as they moved towards us. Motor shells were exploding everywhere. We knew the army was advancing quickly. Malathy 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 went over to carry Malathy. Malathy refused to come with us. She begged us to leave her and asked us to withdraw. Nevertheless, we lifted Malathy and carried her and when we arrived at a safe place she was dead.”
Women & the Struggle for Tamil Eelam
Voice of Tigers Bulletin, February 1990
As a national liberation movement the LTTE has a women guerrilla wing which has been actively involved in the political and the military struggle and has made remarkable achievements in the awakening of women’s revolutionary consciousness. Though the armed resistance campaign of the Liberation Tigers has a history extended to seventeen years, the women’s military structure has a six year old history. The conservative nature of our social formation, its oppressive structures against women, its g e n d e r discrimination, have contributed to the delayed development of women’s participatory role in the armed struggle.
The racial holocaust of July 1983 and the genocidal repression of the state that followed awoke the Tamil national consciousness. Outraged by the pogrom, the entire nation was stirred to resist the mounting Sinhala oppression. This revolutionary awakening had its impact on the Tamil women. It was during this turbulent time, young radical women came forward to participate in the armed struggle for national liberation.
In August 1983, the LTTE formed the women wing and began to recruit female cadres. A theoretical document entitled Women and the Revolution was published in English and Tamil outlining the role and function of women in the Tamil Eelam national liberation struggle. At the initial stages our women cadres were mainly involved in the task of political propaganda. But it was in mid 1984 that women cadres were militarily trained and a well organised women guerrilla unit was established.
Thus, a women fighting force emerged under the leadership of the LTTE, for the first time in the history of the Tamil national struggle ushering in a new era of women’s participation in the war of liberation.
The armed cadres of our women wing were also involved in the task of politicization and mobilisation of Tamil Eelam women, campaigning against social discrimination and national oppression and emphasising the need for women’s emancipation. Towards this objective, a radical women’s journal called ‘Sunthanthira Paraivagal’ was launched in December 1984.
Read More… LTTE Women Guerrillas: A New Revolution