Former rebel takes up acting

Thousands of former Tamil Tiger rebels who were once part of a bitter 30 year war against the Sri Lankan government troops, are now back in society living a normal life with their past behind them.

But one former rebel has taken his past to the movie screen and is now looking at spreading a message through his acting.

Shanthalingham Gokularaj (25) was a member of the Tamil Tiger rebels before the rebels were defeated by the Sri Lankan government troops in May 2009.

As a rebel, Gokularaj was tasked with having to learn and preach the ideologies of the Tamil Tigers, also known as the LTTE, which included seeking support for a separate state for the minority Tamils.

Speaking to Xinhua from his home in Mankulam in the north of Sri Lanka, which was once an area under complete control of the rebels, Gokularaj said that he was forced to join the Tamil Tigers, which was designated as a terrorist outfit.

“I was a member of the political wing of the LTTE after being forced to join them in 2008 when the war was at its peak. I had to leave my mother, father, sister and brother behind and do what the Tamil Tigers wanted me to do,” he said.

One year into his new job, as the war was reaching its final stages and the Sri Lankan army was closing in on the little that remained of the Tamil Tigers, Gokularaj got an opportunity to flee and rejoin his family.

“I came to Omanthai where the army was at that time and surrendered with my family. I was taken to a rehabilitation camp from there,” Gokularaj said.

As the war drew to its ultimate end, Gokularaj spent his time undergoing rehabilitation which would later prepare him to be free back in society.

During his rehabilitation the former rebel met a popular Sri Lankan actress, Anoja Weerasinghe, who trained him and a few others in acting.

While putting on a performance for some guests who were visiting the rehabilitation camp, Gokularaj was spotted by a local movie director.

Sri Lankan movie director Sanjaya Leelarathna sought permission for Gokularaj to act in one of his movies which was to be about rehabilitated Tamil Tiger rebels.

“We started shooting for the film in Jaffna and the movie was later released in Colombo recently. Thanks to all the training Anoja gave me I was able to act in that movie,” a joyful Gokularaj said.

The movie titled “Selvam” premiered in Colombo with the participation of Sri Lanka’s Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, who has been credited with ending the 30 year war.

In the movie, Gokularaj plays the role of a rehabilitated Tamil Tiger rebel who starts living a new life after the end of the war.

Gokularaj said that he had already received another offer to act and he hopes this will open up more opportunities for him to reach greater height.

Like Gokularaj, thousands of former rebels have been released back into society amidst a push for a war crimes probe in Sri Lanka. “Earlier it was just war and more fighting. The future was never certain for me but now with peace I have a chance to do something I always wanted to do,” he said. Back in his Mankulam home Gokularaj now spends time singing and performing with his own musical group and is looking forward to a brighter, better future. (Xinhua)

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