The Cage: The Fight for Sri Lanka and the Last Days of the Tamil Tigers, by Gordon Weiss
Although not a usual choice for me, I decided to read this book because I’m planning a trip to Sri Lanka in the coming months. This tiny island known for its tea plantations, stunning beaches and friendly Buddhist people fascinates me, how can somewhere that looks so much like paradise suffer so many troubles?
For those that haven’t had a chance to read the blurb, the book is an incredibly detailed account of the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka, followed by a first-hand account of the final military conflict. What is unique about The Cage compared with many other books on this topic is that it is completely unbiased and propaganda free. Weiss simply offers a thorough and striking account of the sheer terror inflicted by both parties on a group of innocent civilians, uprooted from their homes and trapped in the apparent ‘no fire zones’. Gordon Weiss is a writer and journalist who has previously reported from such places including Bosnia and Kosovo, Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, Japan and India. He worked for the UN in Sri Lanka and was witness to the violence that occurred there during this time. It has enabled him to write one of the most detailed and thoroughly researched books about this conflict.
To be completely honest though, for me it wasn’t an easy read. Regardless of the above, I struggled with the lengthy sentences and the very detailed account of Sri Lankan history and its 19th century politics. Saying that, I stuck with it and I have to admit, the history lesson does help the reader to understand a little but more about the ethnic conflicts. I’m still none-the-wiser about who is to blame or even if there was a ‘good or ‘bad’ side. Both the Sri Lankan army and the Tamils committed horrific acts of violence with what seems like absolutely no regard for innocent civilians. Weiss details the violence carried out by both sides, as well delving into the Black Tamil suicide bombers, the child soldiers, the uncharacteristic violence from Buddhists, the murdered journalists and of course, the shelling of NFZ’s (no fire zones).
I probably haven’t done this book the justice it deserves, it’s a hard read and I wouldn’t want to suggest I absolutely understood every detail. I didn’t and will probably need to re-read, perhaps delve a little deeper into the history and the religious politics. On the other hand, I will still recommend this to anyone with an interest in Sri Lanka, anyone who plans to travel there and anyone who has a keen interest in world history.