Had the LTTE been successful in their armed struggle for the creation of a separate Tamil State in the Northern and Eastern Provinces and if the Sinhalese in Vavuniya or some village in Ampara District organized a commemoration event for the armed forces personnel killed in the war, would the Tigers allow it to happen? Definitely, they wouldn’t.
"Today is the LTTE designated commemoration day for their cadres who were killed in the same war and the Govt is making every effort to prevent Tamils from holding any event in the name of rebels..."
Similarly, today is the LTTE designated commemoration day for their cadres who were killed in the same war and the government is making every effort to prevent the Tamils from holding any event in the name of these rebel cadres.
State Minister for Local Government and Provincial Councils, Sarath Weerasekara also told Parliament that the government would not allow anybody to commemorate terrorists. This is the nature of what sociologist call the “victor’s peace.”
Similar to the case with the JVP which has two days of commemoration of its members killed in their two insurrections - the Bak Maha Viru Samaruwa and the Il Maha Viru Samaruwa - the Tamil politicians too have two days of commemoration of those Tamils killed in the three-decade-long separatist war – the Mullivaikkal Day in May and the Maveerar Day in November. Il Maha Samaruwa is held on November 13, the day when the JVP founder leader Rohana Wijeweera was killed in 1989 and Mullivaikkal Day is held on May 19, the day when LTTE leader Velupillai Prabakaran was killed in 2009.
Already Jaffna High Court has dismissed a plea by several people to commemorate their loved ones killed in the war. However, the High Court Judge Annalingam Premshanker’s ruling was based on a technical point and not on the ground that the commemoration was illegal. The judge said that the case was out of the jurisdiction of his court since the matter comes under the national security. State Minister Weerasekara said that those lawyers including Parliamentarian M.A.Sumanthiran who appeared for the petitioners too must be treated as terrorists and must be taken to task.
Nevertheless, a group of people in Alampil, Mullaithivu ignoring the warnings by the Police and the Army had cleaned what they call a Maveerar Thuilum Illam (abode where great heroes sleep) or an LTTE cemetery on November 21 in preparation for this year’s “Maveerar commemoration.” Despite the politicians of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) and its allies have accused the United National Party (UNP) led previous government for allowing such commemorations People in the North and the East held those events in many places during this year’s “Mullivaikkal Day” in May as well.
So many commemoration events were held on May 18 and 19 in many places in the North such as Kovils, churches, government offices, political party offices and the Jaffna University. They were attended by members and office bearers of local government bodies as well. Ironically, the government led by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa did not ban those events, but the police had used the health instructions issued in the light of COVID-19 outbreak to prevent the Tamil politicians and the people from attending them. The significance the Tamil leaders attached to these events could be evaluated just by the space given by Tamil newspapers published in Colombo to them.
"Despite the northern people having suffered gravely at the hands of the LTTE by way of their taxes, restrictions, brutal punishments, destruction of infrastructures and their forcible recruitment of children, they still love and respect the organization and even venerate its leader"
They on May 18 and 19 carried a large number of stories on these commemorations. Twenty-three out of seventy-five general new items in a newspaper on May 19 were on these events. It had also carried a full-page story, a speech made by Thamil Makkal Koottani (Tamil People’s Front) leader and former Northern Province Chief Minister C.V.Wigneswaran at a commemoration meeting held at the office of his political party, apart from the editorial and a quarter page pictorial on the issue. Another newspaper had carried a full-page pictorial. Besides, in September many events were held in the North and East to pay tribute to Thileepan, the former LTTE commander in Jaffna who died in an 11-day hunger strike on September 26, 1987, putting forward 5 demands.
It is always accused that the northern politicians commemorate the LTTE during these commemorations in the guise of remembering the civilians killed in the war. While that being a major reason for the southern aversion towards the northern commemorations another reason for that antipathy especially by the Sinhalese is the genuine fear that those events might rejuvenate the dreaded rebel organization. In fact, out of these two days (May 19 and November 27), the first day signifies the death of LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran, while the other is assigned by him to commemorate his comrades fallen in the war.
"Even those who opposed and hated the LTTE during its heyday seemed to be unhappy when it was defeated by the security forces as they viewed it as a triumph by a Sinhalese force over a Tamil force"
Despite the northern people having suffered gravely at the hands of the LTTE by way of their taxes, restrictions, brutal punishments, destruction of infrastructures such as the railway service and road network and their forcible recruitment of children, they still love and respect the organization and even venerate its leader. Even those opposed and hated the LTTE during its heyday seemed to be unhappy when it was defeated by the security forces as they viewed it as a triumph by a Sinhalese force over a Tamil force.
Even a slight rejection of the LTTE by a Tamil politician is not tolerated in the North. When TNA Parliamentarian M.A.Sumanthiran told during an interview with a Sinhalese journalist that he did not accept the armed struggle launched by Prabhakaran he had to face a barrage of criticism even within his party, despite what he said was true in respect of all Tamil groups except for the LTTE.
During the commemoration events, while the northern people weep over the death of their loved ones the politicians eulogize the bravery, commitment and the sacrifice of the LTTE cadres which had sometimes been incredible. As the southern people extol the sacrifice of soldiers such as the famous Hasalaka Gamini who blew up an improvised LTTE armed vehicle at Elephant Pass in 1991, Tamil politicians glorify and eulogize hundreds, if not thousands of LTTE cadres who blew themselves up or had bitten into the cyanide capsule believing that it would help “emancipate the Tamils from the clutches of the Sinhalese government.” They glorify the “heroism, bravery, leadership and the sacrifices” of the LTTE leader who is being called by them “Thesiyath Thalaivar” (National Leader).
"One cannot rule out the possibility of these glorifications coupled with the agitations over the genuine issues such as the ones on missing persons and detainees pushing the youth to follow their yesteryear heroes"
One cannot rule out the possibility of these glorifications coupled with the agitations over the genuine issues such as the ones on thousands of missing persons and PTA detainees pushing the youth to follow their yesteryear heroes. It is worth recalling the 17-year-old youth, Rajeswaran Senthuran, a student of Kokkuvil Hindu College in Jaffna who had allegedly committed suicide in 2015 due to overwhelming emotions stirred by agitations by the people and politicians in the area.
He killed himself by jumping in front of an express train from Colombo on November 26, a sentimentally important day for many Tamils in the north, since LTTE leader Prabhakaran’s birthday falls on that day. Besides, a note had reportedly been found in his school bag containing a demand for the immediate release of the Tamil political prisoners, a hot topic among Tamils since 2009 and a comment supportive of carving out of a separate Tamil State.
The government does not seem to have a clear cut policy on this highly sensitive issue. It on one hand does not ban the events but use health restrictions to prevent them from being held. Sometimes they encourage them. During an interview with a Tamil newspaper in 2007 SLPP National Organiser Basil Rajapaksa said “Jaffna university students had told me that they were allowed to commemorate Thileepan. In fact, had we been in power for another year, we too would have permitted such commemorations. We were giving such rights step by step.”
The LLRC appointed by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa in 2010 had in its report suggested a solution to this sensitive issue, a common day of commemoration for personnel of armed forces and police, LTTE cadres and the civilians killed in the war. Yet, the present psychological polarization in the country would never allow such an idea to materialize.