ERASING THE EELAM VICTORY

ERASING THE EELAM VICTORY – Part 1   

The Eelam wars came to an end on May 2009 with a humiliating defeat for the LTTE and a triumphant win for the government. The entire world was amazed and surprised. None of the other countries had been able to end such a war, said observers.

Nalin de Silva observed that Eelam War IV was undoubtedly a great victory. The government of a small country had defeated a terrorist outfit supported and sponsored by the western powers. Col. C.R.Hariharan said LTTE has been outwitted, out-gunned and out-strategized by the Sri Lanka army. “This must be accepted”, he said.,

Dayan Jayatilleke said that by defeating the Tigers so completely and utterly, Sri Lanka and its armed forces made a contribution to regional and global security. ‘We have got precious little thanks for making the region a little safer’ he added. Gotabhaya Rajapakse said that other countries facing terrorism should follow Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka had shown that terrorism could be defeated.

Analysts also noted that throughout the thirty years of war, the government unfailingly delivered all essential services to the LTTE controlled areas in north and east. The government paid salaries and pensions, ran the state schools, paid salaries of teachers and kept the state hospitals going. They did so through the Government Agents in the north, including GAs of Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu.

Sinharaja Tammita Delgoda says one of the most striking things about Eelam War IV was the chorus of derision and condemnation in which the operation was conducted. No other fighting force had faced this kind of ridicule during a campaign. Bogollagama noted that the war was fought in an unhelpful and hostile background.  The army was winning, but it was publicly ridiculed by a section of the political elite.

However, there was considerable gratitude among the  Sinhala public for this victory. Those who were affected by the LTTE attacks were especially grateful. When I was in Trincomalee some time ago, the owner of a tourist stall told me “Madam, people who live in Colombo do not understand   how we suffered during LTTE rule. We slept in the jungle at night. When a husband or child went out during the day, we could not be sure that they would return. We are grateful to Mahinda Rajapaksa for ending the war.”

But after winning the war, Rajapaksa government failed to consolidate the win. Rajapaksa did not declare at any time that this was a secessionist war, which was legitimately won by the Sri Lanka army. The government stupidly took the position that the war was a “terrorist war”, not a secessionist war. Despite the fact that the said terrorists called themselves, “Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam”, indicating clearly that it was a separatist war.

Mahinda Rajapaksa stated repeatedly that this war was not against the Tamil people, it was against the terrorists. Critics did not agree with Mahinda Rajapaksa. It was not terrorism. It was   civil war, they said.Sri Lanka fought a just war by just means, they said.

The Eelam Wars were outright civil wars.  They were secessionist wars, with the purpose of dividing the island and setting up a new littoral (coastal) sovereign state.  The land area of future state of Eelam started at Kalpitiya went northwards up to Jaffna, then down past Trincomalee, Batticaloa and ended at Ampara.  A ‘friendly country’ was ready and waiting in New York, to get the new state recognized at the UN.

Critics pointed out that Separatism is prohibited by law in Sri Lanka. The Sixth Amendment to Constitution of Sri Lanka, which is also Act no 6 of 1983,   said that it was the duty of the state to safeguard the territorial integrity of Sri Lanka.

Article 157A of the Constitution said that no person shall, directly or indirectly, in or outside Sri Lanka, support, espouse, promote, finance, encourage or advocate the establishment of a separate State within the territory of Sri Lanka.  No political party or other association or organization shall have as one of its aims or objects the establishment of a separate State within the territory of Sri Lanka. Any political party supporting such an aim shall be proscribed and any MP unseated from Parliament and deprived of civic rights.

The first thing  Mahinda Rajapaksa did after winning the war, was to  let the UN in. the Eelam wars were outside the scope of the UN, They were an internal matter. But President Mahinda Rajapaksa permitted UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon to visit as soon as Eelam War IV ended.

Moon arrived on 23.May 2009.  He visited the internally displaced persons (IDP) sites at Vavuniya and flew over the area near Mullaitivu, that was the scene of the conflict. He spoke with the President and senior officials. He also ‘consulted other relevant stakeholders, members of international humanitarian agencies and civil society”.

Rajapaksa thereafter issued a joint statement with Moon. This statement   did not make any reference to the praiseworthy victory of the government of Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka  did nto congratulate itself. Instead, the statement spoke of violations of international humanitarian and human rights law.

The statement said, inter alia, htat  the government would work towards a lasting political solution.  The aspirations and grievances of all communities would be addressed.  And a national solution acceptable to all sections of people will be evolved.   To do so, the government would begin a broader dialogue with all parties, including the Tamil parties. It was a sort of pro-Eelam statement which implied that the government was in the wrong. The statement implied that the government was at fault for creating a situation where the Tamils had to take to arms. That Tamil Separatism was justified and should be   taken into consideration.

Thereafter, in May 2010 Rajapaksa appointed a Commission of Inquiry on Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation (LRRC). The members of the LLRC were C. R. De Silva, PC (chairman)  Attorney General (2007–09), Solicitor General (1999–2007).  A. Rohan Perera, PC  former legal advisor to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and  Chairman of the United Nations Ad Hoc Committee on Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism and member of the International Law Commission.

Karunaratne Hangawatte, Professor of Criminal Justice at the Department of Criminal Justice, University of Nevada, Las Vegas and former consultant to the United Nations[ Chandl Chanmugam, Secretary to the Treasury (1987–88).,Manohari Ramanathan ,former Deputy Legal Draftsman and former member of the Monetary Board of Sri Lanka Maxwell Paranagama, former High Court Judge M. T. M. Bafiq, Senior Attorney at law and member of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka. and H. M. G. S. Palihakkara, former Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and former Permanent Representative to the United Nations 2008-2009. Palihakkara had trained in international human rights and humanitarian law at the Raul Wallenberg Institute, Lund University, Sweden.

The committee was asked to study the circumstances that led to the failure of the Ceasefire Agreement and report on the lessons learnt from the war that would prevent recurrence.  They were asked to recommend the best way to make restitution, and ways to promote national unity and reconciliation among all communities. The time period for the survey would be 21. February 2002 to 19 May 2009. The report was completed in November 2011, tabled in the Parliament and published in December 2011.

The LRRC report was a gift to the Tamil Separatist Movement. The conclusions of the LLRC report are now used exclusively by the Tamil Separatist Movement.

The LLRC accepted that the North and East had issues that required addressing and that reconciling was needed to heal wounded Sri Lanka. It advocated demilitarization, vacating of all private and public land occupied by the security forces, solving of land ownership disputes through special land commissions. It wanted the establishment of a politically independent civil administration. The long standing Tamil grievances needed to be provided with a political solution which included devolving power.

LLRC report also called for a comprehensive investigation into the crimes of the LTTE, hitherto not undertaken, also to look at the accountability of the UN and international organizations.  They should be subject to scrutiny. These two recommendations of the LLRC have been ignored by the government and the Tamil Separatist Movement.

Instead of following up on the victory and crushing the Tamil Separatist Movement, Rajapakse government took a defensive approach after the war ended.  This was an invitation to the  Tamil Separatist Movement to take steps to erase the Eelam victory. This series examines the attempts made by the Tamil separatist movement to do so. (continued)

ERASING THE EELAM VICTORY Part 2

By Kamalika Pieris

(Courtesy of Lanka Web)
From 2010 to 2014, Sri Lanka    held a celebration on May 18th to mark the end of the Eelam war. The celebrations were marked by a military parade, speeches and a moment of silence. This celebration was known as ‘Victory Day’ .One way of erasing the Eelam victory, was to get rid of Victory Day and   Victory Parade.

Our opponents criticize us for celebrating Sri Lanka’s victory over terrorism, said Mahinda Rajapaksa. They don’t want us to hold military parades, they say we are exploiting the war victory for political gain and they demand that we stop recalling the war victory.

In 2014, Canada, on behalf of the international community, the TNA and the Tamil Diaspora, wanted Government of Sri Lanka to replace its annual Victory Day Parade, with a day of remembrance for all those who suffered as a result of the conflict. Victory Day perpetuates roles of victors and vanquished within the country, said Canada.  The Rajapaksa administration rejected the Canadian demand and went ahead with the Matara parade. It was Sri Lanka’s prerogative to engage in such celebrations, the government said.

Canada boycotted the 2014 parade. Canadian High Commissioner in Colombo, in a strongly worded statement, issued exclusively to ‘The Island’, explained the Canadian decision to do so. Five years after the end of the conflict, the time has arrived for Sri Lanka to move past wartime discourse and to start working seriously towards reconciliation, the Ambassador said. It is time to mend relations between communities and to ensure that all Sri Lankans can live in dignity and free from discrimination, based on ethnic, religious or linguistic identities.

Sri Lanka’s own Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission report recommends that a solemn day of remembrance for all victims of the war would be more conducive to sustaining peace here. Such a gesture would go a long way towards putting wartime posturing behind Sri Lanka. “I will not be in Matara, but I will be thinking and remembering all those who lost their loved ones over the 30-year conflict,” concluded the Canadian ambassador.

In January 2015, Yahapalana government cancelled the military parade held on victory day. For five years Sri Lanka didn’t have a military parade, observed Shamindra Ferdinando in 2019. Yahapalana government terminated the annual victory day parade, to the dismay of the vast majority of Sri Lankans, he said. The celebration was re-named Remembrance Day.

The west openly welcomed the change to a day of remembrance. So did the Global Tamil Forum. Army Commander Lt. Gen. Mahesh Senanayake also supported the decision. These parades were a source of great inconvenience for the   soldiers, he said. There are many who like to come and watch these parades, but it is the soldiers who have to put in a great deal of effort to make these parades a success, he said in 2018.

Moreover, it costs millions of rupees to hold such pageants. With the rise in fuel prices and the rising cost of living, how can we, being the armed forces who are paid by the public, have such functions with public funds, he asked.

This is not the time to blow our own trumpet and boast to the world that we are victorious, he added.  We feel that this is not the right way. Instead we would rather conduct religious activities that would bring merit to the souls of these war heroes,” he said. A series of programmes have been organized at every military establishment throughout the country.

Those who supported the Eelam victory did not agree. The cancellation was meant to appease those who couldn’t stomach Sri Lanka’s victory over the LTTE, they said. There is now an attempt to make us forget the war. There cannot be any other instance of a country depriving itself of its right to celebrate victory over terrorism . Shame on those politicians who suspended the Victory Day celebrations, they declared.

Former Navy Commander Sarath Weerasekera said that in May 2016 they had complained of the cancellation of the annual Victory Day parade by Yahapalana, while allowing the commemoration of LTTE cadres. No country would allow commemoration of terrorists having deprived the military of its right to celebrate victory, he said, this is an insult.

What is wrong with Victory Day, the anti-Eelamists asked. Victory days are celebrated all over the world to ensure that memories of a just struggle are not forgotten. There are  four victory days to celebrate the World War II alone.  On 8 May when Germany surrendered, on Aug 15 the day Japan surrendered, on Sept 2 when the documents were signed in USA. Russia has a separate victory day parade to honor Russian soldiers who died in WWII.  Military hardware is  displayed at this parade.

Is it wrong to celebrate our victory, supporters of the Victory asked.   Yes  it is, said  the  Eelamists. World War  II is commemorated because it was a war between sovereign states, but the Eelam is a ‘home and home quarrel’ and should be forgotten as soon as it is over.

This issue was debated in an opinion poll held by Sunday Times in 2014.  One respondent  said  that  Victory celebrations with military pomp are usually reserved for victory against invader or  foreign aggressor. Sri Lanka’s  conflict was in internal one, and those who died were citizens of the country.  Though it may have been necessary to defeat them, it is not necessary to have victory parades.

Another said that Victory celebrations  polarize the community. There is no collective remembrance of loss. Instead there is  a reinforcement of the separation. Victory parades would hamper reconciliation as well.. Instead of a victory parade, there should be an  American style Memorial Day. America holds this,  commentators said, to honor the Union soldiers who died in the Civil war. This is incorrect. Memorial Day  in the USA remembers those who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.

By 2018 the country was getting restive about Yahapalana rule.  Yahapalana  was its way out. The angry supporters of  the Victory parade had to be appeased if Yahapalana was to win the next election. Therefore, Victory day was celebrated on 18.5.18. without a military parade.

National War Heroes’ Day commemoration, headed by the President was held at National War Heroes’ Monument in Battaramulla, followed by a mega Army-supported ‘Aaloka Pooja’ Pinkama, in the  evening at Kelaniya Rajamaha Viharaya. The media showed a  heartrending photograph of mothers weeping at this  commemoration ceremony and  gazing at their sons’ names on the name board.

There was a Ranaviru samaruma at Parliament on 19.5.18.  Commemorative events were also held  at the Security Forces Headquarters, Division Headquarters, Forward Maintenance Areas, Regimental Centers, Army Training Schools, Units, Field Headquarters and military rehabilitation centers. There were religious observances at all regimental formations.

There were commemorations at Anuradhapura, at  Nilwala Devalaya , Matara, in the Vanni,  and the Vavuniya Pradeshiya sabha.  Corporal  Gamini Kularatne, Hasalaka hero,” was remembered near his statue in Elephant Pass. His mother attended the event. In addition, Security Forces Headquarters, Jaffna, organized a commemorative event on May 4th.  Kurunegala military memorial was opened on the 12 May. It has long panels on either side, with the names of those who died.

In 2019 there was a   low key armed forces victory celebration . The government celebrated the event, on the afternoon of May 19, 2019, at the War Heroes’ monument, at Battaramulla with the participation of President Maitripala Sirisena, Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe and Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa. Commentators pointed out that it was Mahinda Rajapaksa ‘s resolute political leadership ensured Sri Lanka’s victory over the LTTE. Rajapaksa brought together a team that relentlessly conducted a nearly three-year long combined forces offensive, until the LTTE collapsed on the Vanni east front.

The government ignored all top ex-Generals/Officers who spearheaded the successful war effort.  Former  Defence Secretary  Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, the then Army Commander Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka, Navy Chief Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda and SLAF Chief Air Chief Marshal Roshan Goonatileke, were  not invited to the Battaramulla event. A furious Fonseka is believed to have turned down the invitation whereas others didn’t receive invitations. Sri Lanka’s triumph over the LTTE would never have been possible without their leadership. Their unparalleled contribution made the victory possible, said Shamindra Ferdinando.

In the absence of a tri-services National Victory Day parade, the armed forces marked the day with a series of events in Colombo and the provinces. Had there been a proper parade, each service would have had a headquarters element and separate sections for Wanni, Eastern and Northern theatres. Instead, the seven Army Commands, East, West  Central, Wanni, Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu, Jaffna, marked the day with a march on main roads on May 22, 2019.  The Kilinochchi Command marched from Karadiyapokku Bridge to War Heroes monument in Kilinochchi. The Navy had its main commemorative event at its Welisara base while the Air Force had none.  The print and electronic media didn’t even bother to report events organized by the Army at Command level, observed Shamindra Ferdinando. ( Continued)

 ERASING THE EELAM VICTORY Part 3

The Tamil Separatist Movement has charged that Eelam War IV was an act of genocide by the Sri Lanka government. This was yet another way of erasing the Eelam victory, by declaring that the Eelam war was not a clean war, it was genocide initiated by the government. The Tamil Separatist Movement started to call May 18th Genocide Day.

The idea of Genocide Day came from Tamil Separatists living outside Sri Lanka. In 2015 Tamils in Switzerland called for a Genocide Day on May 18 2015,to protest the 6th anniversary of the victory over war. Tamils in UK also joined in.

Genocide celebrations started in earnest in 2017. Yahapalana government permitted such celebrations. Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran thanked the government for allowing the people to remember the cadres killed in the conflict. Education Minister, Northern Province, had ordered that flags be hung at half mast in schools and that the celebrations must include the school children.

At least 40 events were held across the Northern Province in 2017. Thousands of people took part in ceremonies at decorated tombs where LTTE cadres had been buried, reported the media. People also remembered their relatives not just in burial sites but in their residences and kovils as well, the media said.   There were two events where the organizers had displayed the portraits of LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran.

In 2018, the main celebration was at Mullavaikkal. A commemorative event was organized at the Mullivaikkal memorial ground on May 18   to mark what the Tamil National Alliance called the 9th anniversary of the Mullivaikkal Genocide Day, reported the media. It was organized by civil society organizations and political parties and was attended by TNA leader R Sampanthan and Northern Chief Minister C V Wigneswaran. Sampanthan was heckled by some of the participants as he spoke. The suggestion that May 18 be declared a Day of Genocide was made at this event.

Several thousands of people attended the ceremony of remembrance held there  at the monument erected in memory of the civilians killed in the war, said Jehan Perera.  Yahapalana government did not obstruct these activities.

However, at this event, the TNA politicians who attended the event were not permitted to speak. Instead university students and nationalist members of civil society groups took the centre stage. The Chairman of the Northern Provincial Council was physically stopped from entering the podium. The only politician who addressed the gathering was Northern Chief Minister C V Wigneswaran.  Today, we gather together to remember the 9th anniversary of Mullivaikkal Genocide Day, he declared.” Every May 19 hereafter must be declared as Tamil genocide day,

Chief Minister Wigneswaran said that the Tamil community had been subjected to ‘institutional genocide’. Wigneswaran sought an assurance from the international community (read as Western powers) as regards a sustainable political settlement based on their sovereignty, their homelands and their individuality.

Wigneswaran moved a six-point resolution. They were: declaring every May 18 in the coming years as “Tamil Genocide Day,” an international mechanism to be set up by the international community to ensure justice for the people affected by the genocide, ensure a sustainable political settlement based on Tamil sovereignty, homeland and individuality, withdrawal of the armed forces from the Tamil areas of traditional habitation and the necessary infrastructure to rehabilitate the people directly,

Wigneswaran had more to say. “Still steadfast in their Mahawansa-oriented perception, the Sinhalese politicians consider the Mullivaikal debacle as the end of a Tamil – Sinhala war. That is why commemorative victory festivals are held in the South during this period,” said Wigneswaran. “Calling on the military to withdraw completely from the North-East, Wigneswaran said,”The Vanni area has become the citadel for Sinhala colonization. Especially in this Mullaitivu District both land and sea have been seized by force by the Armed Forces.

HERE ARE FURTHER EXCERPTS FROM THE MULLIVAIKAL DECLARATION OF 2018.

We would like to declare today as the Awakening Day of Tamil Nation against Genocide and we declare year 2019 is a year to heighten the international support for political justice and campaign against Genocide. (Mullivaikal Declaration, 2018.)

This year marks the tenth year since the Mullivaikal massacre in May, 2009. The unitary Sri Lanka state that is constructed on Sinhala-Buddhist ideology perpetrated structural genocide against the Tamils phase by phase since its independence in 1948, and this still continues in the post-Mullivaikal setting. (Mullivaikal Declaration, 2018)

The Tamils were killed, tortured, raped, enforced disappeared, forcibly displaced (enforced displacement) for the fact that they were Tamils. Sinhala-Buddhist supremacists have for decades portrayed Tamils as settlers from outside and they imagine Sri Lanka primarily as a Sinhala-Buddhist country.  Since the colonial powers departed from Sri Lanka, Sinhala-Buddhist supremacists have been able to execute their genocidal hatred of the Tamils through the unitary state, the highpoint of which was in Mullivaikal. (Mullivaikal Declaration, 2018)

The post-Mullivaikal era has marked by Sinhala-Buddhisisation and militarization of the North-East provinces. The traditional lands have been deprived for the Tamils by the armed forces under the guise of  Mahaweli development projects, archeology and forest department works. The Sinhala state is using collective psychological operations to thwart any resistance thus planting fear psychosis among people. After the end of armed struggle arrests, threats and surveillance continue to take place. The space for freedom of speech in the North-East has been curtailed. The perpetrators of genocide and war crimes on the other hand have been portrayed as heroes of the nation. (Mullivaikal Declaration, 2018)

In as much as it is the inalienable right of every nation to enjoy full political freedom without which its spiritual, cultural and moral stature must degenerate, and in as much as the Tamil People in Sri Lanka constitutes a nation distinct from that of the Sinhalese by every fundamental test of nationhood, firstly that of a separate historical past on this island at least as ancient and glorious as that of the Sinhalese; secondly by the fact that there being a linguistic entity entirely different from that of the Sinhalese, with an unsurpassed classical heritage and a modern development of language which makes Tamil adequate for all present day needs, and finally, by reason of their territorial habitation of the north and east of this island, and because it is this very existence that the Sri Lanka State wishes to destroy through the genocide and structural genocide of the Tamils. (Mullivaikal Declaration, 2018)

We make the following call:

  • To strengthen the call to refer Sri Lanka to the International criminal court (ICC)   for the crimes perpetrated by the Sri Lankan state, especially genocide;
  • To demand for the Tamil people in Sri Lanka, the recognition of the Tamil nation and its inalienable right to political autonomy on the basis of our people’s distinct sovereignty and inalienable right to self-determination;
  • To call for the North-East merger, the territorial habitation of the Tamils because it is this very existence that the Sri Lanka State wishes to destroy through the genocide and structural genocide of the Tamils;
  • To prevent the structural genocide unleashed on the collective existence of Tamils;
  • To strengthen social structures in the North-East in order to take the struggle for Tamil collective rights forward; (Mullivaikal Declaration, 2018 End of statement)

14 British MPs sent messages of support to this Tamil Genocide Remembrance day. Here are some of the messages.

Bob Blackman MP for Harrow East, Executive Officer of APPGT: “We honour those who lost their lives in the Civil War this Mullivaikkal Remembrance Day and shall do so every May 18th. Justice now for Tamils and for the Sri Lankan government to be held accountable for their actions”.

Gareth Thomas MP for Harrow West: “As the Member of Parliament for Harrow West, with the largest Tamil community in the UK I have seen many cases of constituents directly affected by the terrible events that occurred during the conflict. I have spoken to countless Tamil constituents who lost relatives killed or injured in the fighting. I have seen the scars of people tortured in police cells, heard the stories of those who fled from communities where their friends and neighbours had been raped or murdered in cold blood or who had land and property stolen from them by the military. The demand for justice remains loud and clear. The scale of human rights abuses will never be forgotten. The demand for an international UN-led investigation remains as pressing now as it did 9 years ago and I will always, always, be a champion for action against those responsible for the abuses all of us know happened.”

Robert Halfon, Member of Parliament for Harlow said: “On this very important day of remembrance, we should give our thanks to every member of the Tamil community who keep the flame of the Tamils alive. And we remember all the tragic victims of the genocide of the Tamils. We remember all the awful treatment of the Tamils by the Sri Lankan regime. The Tamils deserve their autonomy. The Tamils deserve equality of opportunity. The Tamils deserve equality. One must never forget.”

Labour Party MP Joan Ryan, Vice Chair of All Party Parliamentary Group for Tamils (APPGT) also sent a message. Ryan was former Chief Executive and Policy Advisor of UK headquartered Global Tamil Forum (GTF). Having represented Enfield North from 1997, Ryan was rejected by the electorate at the 2010 parliamentary polls and soon joined the GTF as its Chief Executive and Policy Advisor. Ryan gave up the assignment in 2015 when she regained Enfield North. The Labour Party politician had been also embroiled in parliamentary expenses scandal, as one of those beneficiaries of highly controversial claims and was directed to repay.

Those leaving the commemorative event at Mullivaikkal were offered cool drinks by the Army. Troops of the 68 Division, deployed in the Mullivaikkal area, provided the cool drinks. Those returning to the Jaffna peninsula, after having participated in the Mullivaikkal commemoration, were also provided refreshments by 55.2 Brigade deployed in the Iyyakachchi area, a former LTTE stronghold, north of Elephant Pass.

Objections to the Vellamullivaikal commemoration was raised at pinkama held at Peliyagoda Vidyalankara Pirivena for soldiers who had died in the war. It was presided over by Ven, Valivitiyawe Kusaladhamma. There were protests in several other places as well, such as Kegalle. The relatives of soldiers who had died, demonstrated on Galle- Matara road. An effigy of Prabhakaran was set on fire at Suriyawewa. Northern Provincial Council must be dissolved  immediately,  others said.   Sarath  Weerasekera said we have not have a government like this before which attacks the Eelam victory  in this manner.

There were celebration in 2019 too. Here is  a first person report on the celebrations at Mullavaikkal in 2019. Ruki Fernando wrote, I then went to Mullivaikkal beach, where the war came to a bloody end. Locals as well as many others from the North and East were present. Amongst those present were those whose family members were killed, or disappeared after surrendering to the Army. Community activists who had been campaigning to regain military occupied civilian lands were also there. Tamil politicians were present, but they didn’t play any significant part. Lamps were lit and Mullivaikkaal Declaration” was read out, though many present had tears in their eyes and seemed too overcome with emotion to listen and understand Foreign Tamil media were visible, but mainstream English and Sinhalese media were conspicuously absent.

Mullivaikkaal Kanji (porridge)” was a striking feature of 18th May in the North, continued Ruki Fernando. This plain and simple food was all the hundreds of thousands in precarious situation in bunkers, tents and on the move could eat in the last few months of the war. Ten years later, there are calls to have Mullivaikkaal Kanji” for one meal on 18th May, to remember what happened. Kanji was served along the Northern roads after the Mullivaikkaal memorial. My friend’s family had only Kanji for lunch that day. Having Mullivaikkaal Kanji for one meal across the country on May 18 could be one way Sri Lankans can unite, commemorate and express solidarity with the war dead, their families and survivors, suggested Ruki.

In 2019, to mark the tenth anniversary of  the massacre that took place at the end of the armed conflict in Mullivaikkal on May 18, 2009, over sixty Tamil Diaspora organizations signed a declaration of solidarity to work towards justice for genocide, demilitarization and Tamil self-determination.

The  joint statement said, On 18 May 2019, ten years since the Sri Lankan state’s genocide against the Tamil nation reached its peak, we stand in solidarity with our brethren in their quest for justice. We believe that an international independent investigation is the only credible path to achieve criminal accountability and justice for mass atrocity crimes committed against the Tamil people, including for over 146,679 Tamil people unaccounted for during the final stages of the war in the Vanni region.

Sri Lanka’s continuing state oppression and persecution of the Tamil people and its persisting military occupation of the Tamil homeland only further justifies the Tamil nation struggle for self-determination. We declare today that  we will stand in solidarity with the Tamil victims and survivors and pledge to continue to strive for peace justice and freedom for the Tamil nation, concluded the statement. ( Continued)

ERASING THE EELAM VICTORY - Part 4

A major complaint of the Tamil Separatist Movement was that they were not permitted to ‘remember’ the Tamils who died in the Eelam war. The right to memory has been denied for the victims and survivors, they complained. Tamil Separatists have a right to remember (memorialize) those who died in the Eelam wars, including the LTTE. The Tamils wish to mourn their dead,  in the wake of hopelessness and humiliation.

Just as much as the Sinhalese celebrate their war heroes, the Tamils in Jaffna also have a right to ‘mourn their dead,’ Tamil Separatist Movement said. Why the Tamils are alone barred from remembering those who died. They should have the freedom to mourn collectively as well.

Persons outside the Tamil Separatist Movement added their support. Priyan Dias queried whether there is a need for rewards and punishments after a war. ‘One has to weep genuinely for the fallen enemies’, he said.

Ruwanthi de Chickera wrote, in 2019 “today, the 18th of May and Vesak poya, also marks the 10th anniversary of the end of our devastating civil war, through which we all suffered, but within which the suffering of the Tamil community was particularly overwhelming. As we remember Vesak let us not forget the end of the civil war. As we remember to remember all this, let us not forget that there are people in our country who are not permitted to publicly remember loved ones they lost. Let us not forget how painful this must be.

The government needs to deal with the problem that there is no memorial or monument for those [in Jaffna] who lost their lives in the last battles, said Jehan Perera. There is a need for such a memorial and the government should not prevent the people who lost their lives from having such a memorial.

Whenever the Tamils try to commemorate the deaths of their loved ones, government steps in  and stops them from commemorating their fallen comrades, the Tamil Separatists   complained.  We are forcibly denied the right of memory.

Don’t the defeated have the right to mourn their dead asked Eelamists. Does not the North have a right to mourn their war heroes and even commemorate them as the government does in the south?  Answer was, No.  The Eelam war was a secessionist war and any celebration is a celebration of a secessionist venture.

The University of Jaffna however, insisted on celebrating those who died in the Eelam wars. Despite opposition, the LTTE cadres who died were commemorated annually by the students and staff of the University. University of Jaffna celebrated Mahaveer in November 2012, despite the government objecting. If the JVP could remember their dead then why not Jaffna remember their LTTE dead, they asked. (Mahaveer Day was started by the LTTE. They held it on November 27, Prabhakaran’s birthday. )

In 2013 it was rumoured that the Tamil separatist movement would stage a celebration of their dead, in Vavuniya, to match the victory celebrations held in Galle Face, Colombo. Officer in charge of the military in the Vanni said that anyone participating in a commemoration ceremony of LTTE cadres will be arrested.  This is treason.    Citizens can commemorate their loved ones but not commemorate terrorists. Others said that there was nothing for the LTTE to mourn on Victory day, their dead died long before that.

In May 2014 TNA got ready to have commemorative events in Jaffna.   Jaffna University teachers also said they had a right to mourn.   The   government however, declared that mass commemoration of dead terrorists would not be allowed. The Vavuniya commemorative meeting was cancelled. A pooja in a temple and blood donations were also called off.

Things changed once Yahapalana government came in.  In 2015 Yahapalana permitted the Tamils of Jaffna to remember the war. There was an immediate response. The Northern Provincial Council ordered schools to be closed. Hartals and hunger strikes were organized in the North. University of Jaffna put up black flags and posters deifying Prabhakaran and calling for Eelam.

In 2016 Jaffna university students held a remembrance ceremony within the University premises.  They celebrated before an Eelam flag.  The Tamil Peoples Council organized a successful   protest march and rally and the Northern Provincial Council proposed a Mahaveer day in November.

There were many commemorations organized by political parties and civil society groups in the North and East on May 18 2017.  A commemorative event to be held near Chinnapar Catholic home in Mullivaikal was blocked by a court order, given at the request of the police. The stay order was challenged in court, and permission was eventually given to hold the event on Church premises.

In 2017 lecturers and students of the Jaffna University commemorated ‘Mahaveer Day’ in the presence of a large crowd opposite the Mahaveer memorial in Jaffna University premises.   The memorial was decorated with flags and students from all the faculties together with the non-academic staff were in attendance.   Mahaveer commemoration ceremonies were also to be held in several districts in the North with the participation of TNA representatives. Posters had been put up calling for people’s participation in this.  

In 2018 Jaffna University remembered those who died in the war. When asked about ‘memorial ceremonies that are being organized in the North to commemorate the fallen LTTE members,’ Army Commander Senanayake said, “The Tamils have their own sentiments. If they light a lamp in memory of a relative who had died during the war, it should not matter. There is nothing wrong in the people in the North commemorating their loved ones who have died during the war. We have our own programmes to commemorate this day at all religious institutions, he concluded.

In 2019 Jaffna University built a memorial for LTTE cadres killed in the battle for Vellamullivaikkal. The memorial was unveiled within the Jaffna University in February 2019. A previous attempt to do so had failed. There was a ceremony at Sencholai and the media showed camera shots of parents garlanding photos of the girls who had been killed.

In November 28.  2019, after the Presidential election, Former Chief Minister of the Northern Provincial Council, C. V. Vigneswaran said that on Mahaviru Day people of the North commemorate those who had passed away and those celebrations were done in a peaceful manner. There was no need for anyone to seek legal approval to commemorate the dead. The Tamil people had a right to celebrate the Mahaviru Day peacefully. “It is true that some of the dead are LTTE members but we must not forget that they too are humans,” he said.

The LTTE, when it was in power had built monument and cemeteries for the LTTE dead. In 2010 the Sri Lanka military bulldozed LTTE monuments including the cemetery at Chaaty Beach near Jaffna. There were protests about the razing of the LTTE cemetery in Jaffna. Shanie” (Lanka Nesiah, brother of Devanesan Nesiah) in his newspaper column said that this was a sensitive issue which will hurt the feelings of the families of those killed.

Shanie’s observation was contested. LTTE was a terrorist organization which has no concern for human life said a critic. Further, the tombstones of the slain LTTE cadres were not erected by their family members. It is interesting that those who now talk of these cemeteries kept mum when the LTTE blew to pieces hundreds of people. Those persons have no tombstone to commemorate them, critics concluded.

Anne Abayasekara complained in a letter to Island about the bulldozing of the LTTE cemeteries in Jaffna. She thinks they should have been left for posterity like at Gettysburg, USA.  She also wrote an open letter to Gotabhaya Rajapakse about bulldozing the LTTE cemeteries in north. She said she was moved when she visited Gettysburg and found that Lincoln had honoured the confederate dead, burying them with the Union army. RMB Senanayake said the defeated have a right to mourn their dead.   He too cited ‘the cemeteries for the defeated’ in the American civil war, as an example.

Both are wrong. The American civil war (1861-1865) was between the separatist south (confederate) and the government in the north (Unionist). The north won, the separatists lost.  Gettysburg cemetery contains the graves of the victorious Unionist soldiers. The separatists, (confederates) are elsewhere.  Marietta Confederate Cemetery, for instance is the resting place to over 3000 soldiers from every Confederate state. (Continued)

ERASING THE EELAM VICTORY Part 5

Tamil Separatist Movement complained that the land taken over by the armed forces in the Northern Province were not given back once the Eelam war IV ended in 2009. When the war ended in 2009, altogether 82,555 acres of lands in the North and East were held by the military, of which 30,300 acres were private lands, reported the media. Only 5.2 % of the lands seized had been given back to their rightful owners since 2009, Tamil Separatist Movement complained.

Once Yahapalana government came to power the Tamil separatists were able to put pressure on the President to get their lands back. In January 2018 Yahapalana announced that it had released a total of 55,510.58 acres of private and state land in Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu, Mannar and Vavuniya.

In August 2018 The President said that 88 per cent of land used for security purposes, had already been released. Only 12% remaining lands have to be released. In November 2018 Yahapalana said that the releasing of the lands occupied by the Security Forces in the North and East is in its final stage. In 2019, the Government has released about 80 percent of state lands and around 90 percent of private lands held by the military in the Northern and Eastern Provinces.

Yahapalana reported, in greater detail, that the lands which were held under the Security Forces Jaffna in 2009, was released gradually spread over 20 stages. Most of these lands were held in the high-security zone. In stage one, 370.65 acres were released to the public on October 28, 2010. In Stage two 1952.13 acres was released on November 27, 2010. In stage three, 1971.9 acres was released on May 9, 2011.

Under stage four, 345.94 acres was released on October 6, 2011. Under stage five, 617.76 acres was released on November 29, 2011 in the Thondamannaru area. Under stage six, around 1,000 acres was released on two occasions on March 23, 2015 and April 10, 2015. Then under stage seven, 18.04 acres was released on November 12, 2015.

Under stage eight, 712.98 acres was released on January 15, 2016 while under stage nine, on March 10, 2016, 0.67 acres was released. Under stage ten, 6.73 acres was released on March 2, 2016. Under stage eleven, 214.18 acres was released on June 25, 2016. Under stage 12, 499.49 acres was released on October 31, 2016 and another two acres was released under stage 13 on January 14, 2017. Under stage 14, on April 7, 2017, the military released another 33 acres

Under stage 15 another 54 acres of land was released on July 03, 2017. Under stage 16 the military released 29 acres on November 30, 2017 and another 683 acres was released under stage 17 on April 13, 2018 and two more acres on February 2018. On May 28, 2018, the military released another 0.25 acres and again on June 4, 2018, 36.6 acres was released. In total, 8550.32 acres have been released up to July 2018.

All private lands that were non essential for the national security have been released, said the Army Commander Lt. General Shavendra Silva in 2019. However,  he released further150.15 acres, in Kilinochchi belonging to the State and private owners.

Statistics are also given according to army divisions. The 51 Division in 2009 had occupied in total 2,692.60 acres of land and since 2009 they have so far released 2,512.16 acres to their rightful owners currently occupying 180.53 acres as at May 20, 2018.

The 52 Division in 2009 had occupied in total 10,839.83 acres of land and since 2009 they have so far released 10,665.37 to their rightful owners, currently occupying 174.46 acres as at May 20, 2018. The 55 Division in 2009 had occupied in total 1,821.17 acres of land and since 2009 they have so far released 1,303.00 acres to their rightful owners, currently occupying 518.17 acres as at May 20, 2018. (Daily News 10.7.18 p 11)

The total amount of land occupied by the Army in the Palaly Cantonment area is 2082.66 acres. The total land area occupied by the Army in other areas is 873.16 acres . The Sri Lanka Navy currently occupies 636 acres while the Sri Lanka Air Force occupies 996.74 acres. The total area utilised by the security forces is 4627.11 acres. (Daily News 10.7.18 p 11)

The lands released included  23-hectare land in the Mundirrippu Forest Reservation . 35 acres of land in Urani, 21.84 acres, belonging to 17 land owners in Seeniyamottai village area. The Ottapulam-Vasavilan road, Point Pedro to Kankesanturai road, Ponnaleivithi Road, which runs through Parthithurai, Jaffna to Myliddy,  road connecting Vattappalai and Puthukudiyirippu  and  the main road that runs between Kankesanturai and Point Pedro  were opened to the public.

The  Tamil Separatist Movement  specially targeted  the Palali cantonment near  Kankesanturai where  the military had occupied 10632.98 acres In the Palali Army Cantonment area in 2009.

1,473 petitioners from Achchuveli, Jaffna had complained to the Court of Appeal In May 2013, that 6,381 acres of land, which belonged to them, is to be acquired by the state for the use of security forces in Palali. The petitioners said they had been displaced from their villages during the war. When they wanted to return, they had been prevented by the Army.

Notices of acquisition had been pasted on trees on those lands. The notices were under land acquisition Act Section 2 and dated April 27, 2013.The petitioners requested the Court to restrain the Minister of Lands from effecting this mala-fide acquisition. An amended petition was submitted later, K. Kaneg Ishwaran PC, appeared with M.A. Sumanthiran, for the petitioners. The bench comprised Justice S. Sriskandarajah, the President of the Court of appeal.

Security forces said in 2016 that the army had occupied 27,250 acres of which 21,134 have been given back. It was not possible to give all the lands back due to security reasons. The lands now  come under the Jaffna and Palaly high security zone. There will be no more releasing of land from Palaly cantonment. Security forces said  in 2016.

But  in 2017, 29 acres including the buildings belonging to St. Mary’s Church and Roman Catholic Tamil Mixed School, located inside the Palaly Army Cantonment, were handed over . In 2018 a further   683 acres which was held under the Palaly Army camp area, were released. This was the biggest chunk of land released to the Jaffna public on a single day.

Attention then turned to Valigamam North. Valigamam North was classified as a High Security Zone.  Sampanthan said  in 2017 that civilians were evicted from several thousands of acres of land in Valigamam North in order to protect the Palaly Air Base from artillery fire almost 25 years ago. But even after the fighting had ended in 2009, only a fraction of that land had been returned for civilian resettlement,  he said.

After Yahapalana took office, many areas in Valikamam were returned to their  owners. The army returned 28.8 acres of land to its owners in Valigamam North In 2017. These lands, belonging to 400 families, were held by the security forces since 1990.  However, some of the owners found only empty grounds. Houses had been bulldozed and wells filled up, reported the media. A further extent of land encompassing 4.4 acres in the Valikamam North hitherto used by the Army for service requirements, was released in 2018.

Another area which got much attention was Myliddy. Myliddy is near the high security zones of Palaly airport and Kankesanthurai harbour   and is home to vital military installations, including ammuniion dumps.

Myliddy was one of the first areas of land to be taken over by the military .It has also been one of the last areas to be handed back to its civilian owners. The Army  needed Mailady and the area shouldn’t be vacated under any circumstances, said Sarath Weerasekera, retired Navy Chief of Staff .

The owners of the Myliddy lands  believed that the military did not intend to return this land to them at all as the lands  were  near to the high security zones of the airport and harbor. Jehan Perera recounted that in 2012,  three years after the war had ended,  at Myliddy bulldozers entered the land and completely flattened all remaining buildings, which in any event had become dilapidated due to being vacant for close to three decades. The people had returned to theirhomes to find nothing remaining, not even the boundaries that separated their properties

In 2016,Tamil politicians were making a determined bid to compel the Army to vacate Mailady in the Jaffna peninsula. Tamil National Alliance politicians are demanding Mailady for resettlement in spite of the Army repeatedly offering alternative housing, observed critics. Those who had been displaced aren’t allowed by Tamil politicians to settle elsewhere because  the TNA wanted somehow to evict the Army from Mailady,  they said.

500 acres of Myliddy in Jaffna, which was a long-term request of people, were released in April 2018.  In 2019  on Maha Sivarathri Day  Army released a further  19.72 acres in Myladdy north and east within the Palaly Army Cantonment and a section adjoining it. A small section of 0.25 acres of the released land in Myliddy belongs to the state while the remainder is owned by private owners, reported the media

Urani Primary School, occupied for over 27 years by the military for security reasons, was returned to the school community in 2017. In 2018  a block of 2.75 acres, belonging to the Kalaimagal Vidyalayam, Myliddy North was returned.

A  big fuss was made over the  land taken over  at Kepapilavu.  Sri Lanka army’s 59th division had its   Headquarters at Kepapilavu in Mullaitivu , in a camp that spanned over a thousand acres,  using up much of the residential land, ‘believed to be legally owned’ by private individuals who hold legal documentation, complained Tamil Separatist Movement .

The army had displaced the villagers of Kepapilavu, said Tamil Separatist Movement .  An additional 54 families  had been displaced by the Air Force. These were their private lands or lands with permits. The villagers are in Seeniyamottai close to Nandikathal. They are in very infertile area and are suffering. The military is treating them badly, said Tamil Separatist Movement  in 2013.

Shenali Waduge had gone to Kepapilavu, in 2013. The villagers looked happy, after living for 30 years in cadjan huts.  The 125 families are now in Kepapilavu model village, bordering Seeniyamottai. They have 40 perches of land for each family, six months of dry rations, 12 roofing sheets per family, 8 cement bags, kitchen ware, plastic mats, grant of 25,000 and eventually a brick house of 550 sq feet. Also 100 bicycles gifted and overseas visitors donating goodies, she said.

After Yahapalana, things improved for the owners of lands in Kepapilavu. In 2017 another 133.34 acres in Kepapilavu was released to 68 land owners together with newly-built or completely renovated 28 houses. At the time the Army acquired those lands, there were only 8 buildings and one foundation in the location.

But the matter was not over.  In 2017 it was reported, that families in Mullikulam and Keppapulavu, were protesting for the return of lands held by the Navy and Air Force. In small tents set up right at the entrance of the camps, these families took turns to sit in for 24 hours calling for the return of their land, said Groundviews. It was only after months, and after continued media coverage, that the state began partially releasing land.

A group of Keppapilavu residents also staged a protest opposite the Mullaitivu Security Force Headquarters on December 31, 2018 demanding that their lands be released to them as promised by the government. 55 families were demanding for the return of their lands some of them had legal documentation proving their ownership, while some do not hold such ownership documents, reported the media. The protestors said that this would be their last warning and if their lands are not released prior to January 25, they would forcibly take possession of their lands.

It was reported in 2019 that around 2014, the majority of these families had consented to accepting compensation for their lands and around 270 houses had been built for them. However, around nine  families had not agreed to accept compensation and had wanted their lands returned to them.Subsequently, the rest of the families who had earlier agreed to give up their lands and accept the compensation by the government,  had changed their minds and are demanding that their lands be returned to them, said Tamil Separatist Movement .

President Sirisena said people have the right to decide whether they want to resettle in their original lands or in alternative lands and instructed the release of these lands.  However, it was said that only some of those demanding for the lands possess legal documentation to prove ownership to these lands. In 2019 the army had reported to the President that they were working towards an amicable solution”, in consultation with civilians, regarding the lands occupied by the army in the Keppapilavu area in the Mullaitivu District. (Continued)

ERASING THE EELAM VICTORY – Part 6

Soon after the defeat, in Eelam War IV, the separatist forces went into its next phase of attack, which was UN action against Sri Lanka.  Sri Lanka was to be punished for defeating the LTTE and the LTTE was to be exonerated, using the farce of Human rights”. A separatist war is a political and military matter. It is not a human rights matter. Therefore this approach is very weak. But it was the only avenue available. The Security Council would have rejected the matter outright.

USA and the Tamil Separatist Movement had known well before the war actually ended that LTTE would lose. They had the next move ready, which was to erase the victory by showing the war to be unfair, unjust,    unclean and therefore not a legitimate victory at all.

This was not something that the local Tamil Separatist Movement could handle. It had to be done by the USA.  USA went to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva with a series of Resolutions against the government of Sri Lanka   in 2012, 2013, and 2014.

Then came Resolution 30/1 of October 2015, Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka” ( A/HRC/RES/30/11). This Resolution  was drafted by the US, with, we are told, the concurrence of India and the Tamil Separatist Movement . It was prepared by Ms Sandra Beidas, formerly of the Amnesty International . It was  supported  in Geneva by the Yahapalana government of Sri Lanka , a puppet government supported by the USA.

The purpose of Resolution 30/1 is to erase the   government  victory, and bring the Tamil separatist  matter onto front stage. This Resolution is  therefore an Eelam Resolution”, not a human rights one. It starts be referring to three  matters which are not  relevant to the Eelam War, but are  very relevant  to the Tamil Separatist Movement, namely, 13th amendment,  19th amendment  and the Yahapalana regime change of 2015.

The Resolution then goes directly into the issues relating to  the war  victory. The Resolution implies that the war should not have taken place at all. Tamil Separatism was legitimate .The government of Sri Lanka must  therefore apologize for carrying out a war at all. There should be a commission for Truth, Justice , reconciliation, reparation and non recurrence. The inclusion of the term ‘non recurrence ‘ has not received the attention it should. It means that the state should never again  wage war against the Tamils.

The evidence of victory should be removed as soon as possible. The Resolution speaks of  the removal of high security zones, the withdrawing of the military from the north, return of land held by the military to its owners.

The Resolution then turns to the conduct of the war. Those responsible for violating the rules of war must be  investigated and punished, said the Resolution.  The Resolution implied that the state army, from top to bottom, was guilty of  massive war crimes. That the government forces were at fault. Eelam War  IV  was  therefore      won by foul means. It is not possible for Sri Lanka to be proud of this victory.  ( Continued)

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