Sri Lanka Briefing note, May 25 2014
Celebration of the War Victory Day
Celebration of the War Victory Day
The May 18 this year marked the fifth anniversary of war victory by the government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) over the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The day is celebrated as the annual War Victory Day by the GoSL with a military parade and remembering the ‘War Heroes’ (solders died in the war). Usually all diplomatic missions too are invited to the celebration making it a state event. Further the month of May is designated as the ‘War Heroes Commemoration Month ‘ by the GoSL.
The same day is named as Remembrance Day by various Tamil groups and Tamil media in order to remember Tamils who died in the final stages of the War. Tamil Diaspora groups call it Mullivaikkal Remembrance Day. Mullivaikkal is a village on the north-east coast of Sri Lanka where the final battle of the civil war fought. Within Sri Lanka Tamil political parties and civil groups organise religious and political events on 18th May – the Remembrance Day.
This year GoSL celebrated the War Victory Day (18th) in southern city of Matara with full scale military parade, including tanks, artillery guns and fighter jets.
President Rajapaksa speaking at the War Victory Day celebration said that “This is not a victory of war, but a victory of peace. It was our armed forces that liberated hundreds of thousands of people kept by the terrorists as hostages” “To celebrate this great victory is a duty of a grateful nation that gives utmost consideration to human values. Hence, irrespective of objections from anyone, irrespective of who participates or not, we should celebrate this great victory forever”
Aiming at the diplomats of Western nations stayed away from the War Victory Day President Rajapaksa stated that he would not bow to pressure from foreign critics who are pushing him to investigate claims that tens of thousands of people died in the final stages of the conflict.
“Some governments are blind, deaf and dumb. They are opposed to our celebrating this victory,” he said.
On the very next day (May 19) GoSL held the War Hero Commemoration Ceremony at the War Hero Cenotaph in Sri Jayewardenepura Kotte with the participation of Ranaviru (war hero) family members.
The Ministry of Defence reported that at the event ‘beloved next of kin of fallen War Heroes, many with their sons and daughters, queued up wailing and recalling shared memories of yester year. They spoke in flowers and paid their respect to the memory of their beloved ones as they knelt down at the foot of the memorial.’
Suppression of the Remembrance Day
On the May 5, the Registrar of Jaffna University sent out letters announcing the closure of the University from 16th to 20th May with no explanation. On the May 7 leaflets were posted on the University premises making death threats against professors and student leaders charging that they terrorism. On the 8th May Major General Udaya Perera told university officials, including the Vice Chancellor, deans, and student leaders that no observance in the University would be permitted on the May 18. Further he told them that any observance will be considered as extolling the LTTE leader Prabhakaran and inducement to terrorism.
This set the tone for suppressive measures to be taken to block the Remembrance Day activities.
Earlier in the week the military banned all temple events and public gatherings to commemorate the dead, stating that no bells should toll on May 17 and 18.
On May 18 Military spokesman Ruwan Wanigasuriya told media that no public remembrance events would be allowed, but people would be allowed to have private events in their homes.
Later Sri Lanka Police said that remembrance event was prevented because it was a threat to national harmony.
Police prevented elected representatives of the Tamil people performing religious activities to remember the dead. Member of the Northern Provincial Council, Mrs. Ananthi Sasitharan, wife of a rebel leader missing since his Tamil Tiger separatists surrendered to the army on May 18, 2009, was not allowed to proceed to Keerimalai Hindu temple on the day and used “abusive language” to stop her.
At the Nallur Murugan temple, one of the most important Hindu temples in Jaffna, military personal mingled with Tamil opinion makers and people who gathered to perform religious rituals remembering their dead. As shown by the video footage posted by several Tamil online media, Tamil politicians were abused and removed the coconuts forcibly by a civilian gang. Breaking coconut into shreds in front of temples is an emotional expression of Saiva devotees
The office of the leading Tamil daily published in Jaffna the Uthayan, was surrounded by the military and the two entrances leading to the office from the Navalar Road and Kasthuriyar Road were blocked. All those who entered the road were questioned and some people were turned away. Another Tamil daily the Yal Thinakkural office in Jaffna too was blocked by the military.
On the morning of May 18, offices of the Tamil National People’s Front (TNPF) and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) were blocked by the heavily armed solders.
Even the blood donation campaigns were banned. The Police had instructed the Jaffna hospital not to assist such campaigns. Other hospitals also have been advised not to accept blood donations. The military closed the blood donation centre at Jaffna teaching hospital to prevent people donating blood on the May 18.
Police officials trampled on the floral tributes placed in front of the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) Secretariat at Kaithadi remembering the dead. As shown by the short video footage posted by online news media Police officers smashed the camphor lamp lit by Tamil political leaders. Police had barricaded the NPC building to prevent politicians entering to have a remembrance event.
In Vavuniya TNA MPs had booked the Cooperative Hall to conduct a commemorative meeting, but the booking was cancelled on the instructions of the police. Later a remembrance meeting was held at the TNA Vavunia parliamentarian Mr. Shivashakthi Anandan’s office. In Mannartoo a small gathering and a religious event were held in remembering the dead. In Kilinochchi the TNA office was surrounded by the military and prevented people entering the office to take part in a remembrance event. People gathered at the Krishnan Hindu Temple to perform religious rituals in remembering the dead. Nprthern Provincial member for Mulathiv held a small and short remembrance event in Vanni amidst military intimidations.
TNA General Secretary Mavai Senathirajah, speaking at the parliament on May 20 said that there will be no meaning to the word reconciliation in Sri Lanka if even parliament cannot commemorate Tamil victims of the war and questioned as to why only soldiers killed during the war are commemorated on Victory Day on May 18 and not the Tamil civilians who were also killed.
On the May 20 students of the University of Jaffna held a remembrance event. Jaffna University Teachers Association (JUTA) President, Dr A. Rasakumaran was questioned by the TID for his involvement in organising the remembrance event. An open death threats were issued against the selected members of the teaching staff of the University of Jaffna, Students leaders and journalists for over their attempts to remember the war dead.
(Compiled by Sunanda Deshapriya for the Sri Lanka Brief)