27 September, 2020

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Afraid Of…Remembrance?

By Chaminda Weerawardhana

Dr. Chaminda Weerawardhana

Dr. Chaminda Weerawardhana

The title of a news article that circulated the other day read ‘Government issues stern warning against heroes’ day remembrance’. The stern warning in question was intended at Tamils, living in Sri Lanka, especially in the north’s ex-battle ground. The ‘heroes’ in question were a range of Sri Lankan citizens, who, for a multitude of reasons, fought against the Sri Lankan state in the ranks of the now defunct Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). In the latter’s heyday, the ‘heroes day’ was primarily and near-exclusively meant at commemorating LTTE fallen cadres.

Over the last few years, collective remembrance in Tamil society, within and outside Sri Lanka, has gone to include the many hundreds of thousands of civilians, all citizens of Sri Lanka, who died during the 30-year-war. In Tamil collective memory, a special place is carved out for ordinary people who were caught in the crossfire during the very last stages of the final offensive, in which, acts amounting to violations of fundamental rights and crimes against humanity – and in several cases, of genocidal intent (e.g., shelling jam-packed and under-provisioned hospitals) – took place. Sinhalese people in Sri Lanka and in ‘Sinhala diaspora circles’ abroad tend to overlook the tremendous significance Tamils across the world attach to, and the deep emotions triggered in Tamil society by, the notion of ‘remembrance’. In Tamil nationalist circles, much has been said to oppose Colombo’s unfavourable attitude towards remembrance. Just like all news, the issue is raised in late November each year, and dies off until the following year. This article, written ‘after’ this year’s phase of media attention to the issue, is intended at highlighting the broader importance of this issue, which stems beyond petty politics and a doctored late November media interest.

Heroes DayIn sum, the notion of mass remembrance in the Tamil community today includes remembering, and lighting a candle for the memory of a broad range of individuals. They include ordinary people who did not fight actively on either side. They also include a large number of people – especially youth – who, either due to a genuine commitment to a separate state, disillusionment, desperation, poverty or simply, fear of LTTE reprisals, joined the LTTE and fought on its behalf. Those remembered also include victims of state violence. In the latter category, the most poignant examples include the brutal murder (and the subsequent pathetic cover-up) of Tamil political prisoners in the post-war years. Not even the West’s newfound sweetheart, the Sirisena/Wickremesinghe joint regime, has raised a finger to address the plight of Tamil political prisoners who are still being held without trial. Having installed a pro-USA regime in Colombo that suits Washington DC’s strategic interests in the South and Southeast Asian region, the West no longer cares about issues affecting Tamils, especially those who are citizens of Sri Lanka and living in Sri Lanka.

The decision to issue a warning against people commemorating relatives, friends and loved ones by lighting a candle is absolutely pathetic, unacceptable, appalling, shameless and requires outright and unequivocal condemnation. Ludicrous decisions of this nature have the potential of causing severe discontent, prompting post-war generations to continue an antagonistic attitude towards the Government of Sri Lanka and her institutions. It is also a decision that encourages people of the North to assume that Colombo is not really ‘their’ government, and that those in power in Colombo, irrespective of political parties, are thoroughly disinterested in issues of vital concern to them.

Remembrance is an important concept to people, irrespective of who they are. It is a right that needs to be guaranteed to all communities, and in the Sri Lankan case, to all ethnic and religious groups. Interpreting an act of remembrance as a threat of any form to national sovereignty is puerile at best.

No reconciliation can take place with such rigidity and no forward path, be it in terms of economic empowerment of people of the North, enhancing educational facilities, investment promotion in the ex-war zone/s, can take place wholesomely when people are desperate, made to feel secondary beings, with their fundamental rights curtailed, and kept under a veil of surveillance for no reason. Colombo has to do away with its patronising and contemptuous attitude towards Sri Lankan citizens in the country’s northern peninsula, who happen to be Tamil and who were directly affected by a brutal war that lasted thirty years. In the absence of a sensible and understanding approach, Sri Lanka (despite hypocritical praise from Western warlords and the euphoria among some NGO folks in Colombo whose only concern is how much money they can grab from Western sources of funding) cannot and will never take off, in any viable sense of the term.

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Latest comments

  • 10
    2

    Dr.Chaminda.

    I used to often think whether Liberalism was dead in this country.But alas you have resuscitated that beautiful ism.
    Cheers.

    • 2
      2

      Afraid Of…Remembrance?

      Dr. Chaminda Weerawardhana

      “The title of a news article that circulated the other day read ‘Government issues stern warning against heroes’ day remembrance’. The stern warning in question was intended at Tamils, living in Sri Lanka, especially in the north’s ex-battle ground. The ‘heroes’ in question were a range of Sri Lankan citizens, who, for a multitude of reasons, fought against the Sri Lankan state in the ranks of the now defunct Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). In the latter’s heyday, the ‘heroes day’ was primarily and near-exclusively meant at commemorating LTTE fallen cadres.”

      That was remembrance day All right.

      We should have called it Mootal, Modayad, Fools Remembrance Day.

      We Should then remember

      1, VP , Maha Mootal Velupillai Prabakaran

      2. Maha Modaya SWRD Bandaranaila ans SJV Chelvanayagam

      3. Maha Mootal J R Jayawardana

      and Others

      Let us call it the Mahaa Mootal, Modaya and Fools Remembrance day, for their contributions yo Lanka, the Land of Native Veddah Aethho since “Independence” from the Para-British.

    • 2
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      Plato

      “I used to often think whether Liberalism was dead in this country.”

      Liberalism died a slow death. It was poisoned by the likes of Anagarika Dharmapala (the homeless one) and died in 1956.

  • 5
    2

    It warms my heart to read a Sinhala probably Buddhist person’s heart felt thoughts about another community’s calamity.

    God bless you, Sir.

  • 3
    1

    Thank you Doctor for this eye-opener, although a little late. RW/MS have their political
    agenda to serve the majority ONLY, well instilled in themselves – to others it is mere
    lipservice.

    A change is very necessary for the benefit of all Sri Lankans.

  • 4
    4

    The Sinhala politicians are not afraid of remembrance they are themselves afraid of remembering as well
    Like an ostrich they want to bury their head in sand and pretend nothing happened.

    • 2
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      Rajash

      This comment is a copycat one that every Tamils say daily.

      Why are you wasting your time like this.

      Hope you will listen to my advise.

      I am saddened.

      • 2
        0

        The disgrace of others often keeps mild minds from vice.

  • 9
    1

    Chamindra Thank you. This is a beautiful gesture and a brilliant idea to include all dead in the senseless war instead of only certain parties. Come to think of it Maaveerar day actually means “Heroes’ day” in Tamil. Present day’s Tamil and even Muslim youngsters would hardly believe that a Sinahalese person would care for them so much. In my father’s day there were quite a few Sinhalese people who even came to visit us from far away places like Matara to see whether we were ok after the 83 riots and to introduce their children to us. And we too returned the visit when things were better.

    May be all the Peace Programmes on both sides should take a cue from Chamindra and try to find ways to foster friedship between all the children.

  • 6
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    If the Government allows the Tamils to commemorate all their dead, they will not bother remembering VP. If the Government restricts them, their bitterness and resentment will allow VP to be remembered. Its a bit like Colvin’s ‘two languages, one nation; one language, two nations’. Will these idiots ever learn?

    • 6
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      Paul

      ” Will these idiots ever learn?”

      What do you think?

      • 1
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        ” Will these idiots ever learn?”

        Which side?

        Soma

    • 2
      5

      Paul, when you want to make it 27 November we KNOW whom you want to remember. Help us to forget that mass murderer by choosing another day so that we all can participate.

      Soma

      • 5
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        somaass

        “Paul, when you want to make it 27 November we KNOW whom you want to remember.”

        I know whom you have in mind. VP’s birthday falls on 26 November. You can celebrate his birthday on 26th November and on the following day you can remember LTTE martyrs Chose whichever day is convenient to you.

      • 3
        6

        There was a massive remembrance day celebration in Wembley UK this year. All the Sinhala racists were hiding and did not dare to raise a finger against this. All the Sinhala racists in UK are like dogs with their tails tucked between the legs. Peace will return to Srilanka the day when all Sinhala racists go into hiding as what usually happens in UK during a Tamil mobilisation.

        • 5
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          Their are more Sinhalese than Tamils in the UK.
          You just admitted that you too married to a Tamil is a racist from the villagers of Lanka Isn’t it so??

        • 5
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          Dr Gnana,

          “Peace will return to Srilanka the day when all Sinhala racists go into hiding as what usually happens in UK during a Tamil mobilisation.”

          Are you not the one who was hiding during the Jaffna Teaching Hospital during the massacre? Did you not leave Jaffna to go and hide in the UK?

          Who are you to talk about others hiding?

          Please return to Jaffna to help the poor. I hear that there is a shortage of doctors especially in the rural areas.

  • 5
    1

    I am a Buddhist and I look forward for the day when Buddhists would hold Pinkama and offer the merits of that to all victims of the war including Prabakaran and his LTTE fighters. This would enable them to be better beings in their subsequent births and not indulge in acts of violence.

  • 7
    6

    We just need a few more like Chaminda in the government and in the Sri Lankan Buddhist community and reconciliation may just be possible! I am no doubt touched by the comments appreciating Chaminda and that makes me think there still could be light at the end of the tunnel!

    • 7
      2

      you want want and want yet a voice in the wilderness afraid of your shadow – that fatso the bellied animal that your folk kept on feeding to bring misery to all irrespective of race, religion and civilisation.

      Scarborough lost – WOW- she is not stupid like you to get back.

    • 2
      2

      Do.

    • 1
      1

      Indeed this is a fantastic article by Dr. Chaminda Weerawardhana. I agree entirely with its contents.

      …..and Usha, there is a lot for you to learn from people like Dr. Chaminda Weerawardhana who are unbiased and sincere in their opinions.

  • 4
    3

    Dear Chaminda W.

    If only you wrote this about three months ago. 27 November is a day we want to ‘forget’. I remember how jittery we all were for 30 long years as this dradful day was approaching eaçh year. You think it is possible to negotiate with Tamil leadership to choose a day other than 27 November and 19 May so that we all can participate?

    Soma

  • 5
    0

    Well said, Chaminda. Empathy and compassion are the benchmarks of a Buddhist society. I think we should all be open to people commemorating their dead on 27 November and 18 May, and consider these two days as “remembrance days” that emphasize the human need to grieve, rather than celebrate violence through martyrs, heroes and victories.

    Perhaps, when true reconciliation has been achieved, both Sinhalese and Tamils (and the other ethnic groups of the island) could agree on a single day, symbolic for the two major groups, such as around the New Year in April. I think the day of the “old year”, preceding the new year, would be a good day for remembrance, atonement, forgiving and a pledge that we would not embark on a killing spree of our brothers and sisters ever again.

  • 1
    1

    For achieving justice, peace and reconciliation through CT readers and others, I wish to point out an article by the same author:
    The absence of Patriotism, Pluralism and Cosmopolitanism: ‘Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields’ in retrospection in groundviews.org on 07/10/2011

  • 2
    0

    Big thank you for your dissection. Excellent. You are a true patriot (Awanka Deshapremiya) and not a bore or so called smart patriot

    By the way are you related to Edmund Samarakody ? Sadly many voters didn’t vote for him when he stood up by his principles.

    One thing I’m sure is, you are not related to Colin R De Silva who produced the 1972 constitution . I’m also sure you are not related to NM’s nephew Tissa or to Philips descendant Dinesh Gunawardane.

    Any idea whether Emperor Ashoka allowed the citizens of Kalinga to have a remembrance day for those who died in the unjust war?

  • 3
    0

    It began first with the JVP in the late 2000s – but that was more for political reasons to set-up the groundwork to conduct JVP meetings in the Tamil majority North-East. Then it was ex-Sinhala hawks like the (late) Ven. Maduluwewa Sobitha Thero who lately adopted a 360 degrees turn jettisoning his long political stance on the National Question. Sinhala hardliners like Champika Ranawake, now with very high ambitions, are now changing, possibly, to appease India and the Western world – to show Tamils have a reason to feel deeply aggrieved. And now the liberals from the South of the divide like Dr. Chaminda W courageously speak out for justice and reason. This is a welcome change and augurs well for peace, unity and reconciliation – indispensable features to build a strong economic foundation for all communities. This feature should catch on in the Sinhala-majority South.

    If the powerful and influential Mahanayakas also openly express their views likewise there is nothing to stop the early realisation of
    reconciliation between the two major communities – long at loggerheads.
    If the religious heads take the lead, loud and clear, the rest of the Sinhala South will surely follow.

    Kettikaran

    • 3
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      Kettikaran

      “If the powerful and influential Mahanayakas also openly express their views likewise”

      Do you want them to express their views, just wait for a few months. You will see them coming out with guns blazing if and when MS/RW chose to talk to Sambandan on national issues.

  • 2
    0

    Non PhD.

    If I remember right,there was a Text book authored by one Weerawardena on Government.Students then sitting the O/Ls Civics used this as a Text book.

  • 8
    0

    Dr. Chaminda Weerawardhana:

    Reading your Article my normal gut reaction would have been to applaud. But I am afraid I cant. But I agree with almost everthing you have written with few reservations.

    Let me give you my take on this.

    Afraid Of…Remembrance.

    *** They are not afraid of Rememrance. They are afraid of loosing grip on destroying Tamilland. Nothing else matters to them. They got elected on Tamil Vote and promised to Right the Wrong but look at their actions .

    They lied to UN
    Hellbent on Protecting THUGS,CRIMNALS and THIVES.
    We are not going getanything from GOSL.

    RW had an hour long meeting with the accused but failed to meet any of the Victims and I raised it with CM and we had a rebuttal. That gives you an idea of the Mountain we have to climb.

    ACCOUNTABILITY is a prerequsite to RECONCILIATION .
    Mahintha the THUG must serve time. I will never reconcile unless he is sent to Jail.

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