8 August, 2022


Make All People Part Of War Commemoration

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

The government’s decision to celebrate May 19 as a day of victory and the country’s second Independence is another one of its actions that has polarised the Sri Lankan people.  Whether by accident or design, it is ironic that through its continuing actions the government that reunified the territory of the country should also be the one that fosters the divisions between the people.  I was in Mannar on that day that marked a watershed in the modern history of the country, and saw that the Sri Lankan people were divided in their attitudes.  There was no collective remembrance of loss, but a reinforcement of the separation that has overshadowed the post-Independence era.

While the government was celebrating with military march pasts and air and sea shows in Colombo, in Mannar there was real action that was reminiscent of what happened during the war.  A group of people who had gathered to commemorate those who died in the last battle, were prevented from doing so by armed military personnel and police with guns pointing.  It is reported that 15 of them were arrested and only released on bail late at night.   Earlier the state media had reported that such commemorative meetings were illegal and warned anyone commemorating the defeated Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was liable to be arrested.

However, the Tamil political parties in the opposition said they staged the remembrance for those who died in the final battle.  This was where the top LTTE leadership were killed.  In this charged context, the decision of the Catholic Church in Mannar to commemorate all victims of the war was pragmatic.  Whenever Tamils have tried to commemorate the death of their loved ones, the government has taken steps to prevent this.  The military in particular is sensitive to commemorations of the LTTE being held in the guise of commemorating the civilians who lost their lives.  However, the reality is that the two groups of LTTE and civilians were often mixed.  Especially in the last days  of the war, the LTTE forcibly recruited  children, some as young as 12, and this included the children of Mannar.

Contrasting Realities

Mannar is the only one of Sri Lanka’s 25 districts that has a Catholic majority.  With its unique cultural attributes, it is a celebration of the country’s cultural and religious diversity which must not be made into a weakness when it is a strength.  Unlike the Tamil political parties who had called on the people to commemorate the war dead amongst the Tamil population, the Bishop of Mannar requested the clergy in the area to commemorate all victims of the war, and not just those who were Tamil.  By implication, this would have included those of all three ethnic groups, the Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims, and also the fighting personnel on the two sides, the government and LTTE. It is a testament to the strength of Sri Lanka’s diversity, that it was a minority group that decided to commemorate all who lost their lives as recommended by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission appointed by the President.

This year’s victory celebration by the government was focused on the valour of the armed forces and the comprehensive defeat of the LTTE. President Mahinda Rajapakse viewed the military parade and pledged that there will be no room for those who tried to divide the country. He said, “We will not allow a single inch of the land that you won by the sacrifice of your life to be taken away.”  The past fortnight saw a build up in the mass media to remind the people of those days of blood and bombs and how it all has ended.  The contrast with the peaceful situation of the present will continue to bring in the votes of a grateful nation.

But the unfortunate reality is that the support of the Sinhalese majority for the war victory and the government’s celebrations has not been matched by any kind of equivalent support from the Tamil minority.  They too have been beneficiaries of the peaceful situation that has followed the end of the war.  They are now safe from the ravages of child recruitment and terror tactics that the LTTE brought to bear upon them.  But they also wish to mourn their loved ones who are no more with them, to find out what happened to them, and also to regain their dream of enjoying equal rights in which they also have the right to decide.  These are all matters on which the government appointed LLRC has made recommendations on but are not being followed by the government.

Way Forward

Four years after the war’s end the political solution that the leaders of government promised during the time of the war has yet to materialize.  The LTTE has been replaced by the Sri Lankan military who govern them in conjunction with the civilian administration. The Northern Province, where the first gunshots of the war were fired and where the last of the rebel fighters fell, has still to enjoy the right of elected provincial governance even to as limited an extent as the other eight provinces do.   A government ally has filed action in the Supreme Court calling on it to abolish the system of devolution of power for the entire country.  In this context, there is increasing skepticism whether the promised Northern Provincial Council elections in September this year will actually take place.

The civil war ended in 2009 but four years later the country has yet to find its path of reconciliation and to heal the wounds of war.  At the present time it also appears that Sri Lanka is moving backwards, and not forwards, in terms of securing the Rule of Law.  The impeachment of the Chief Justice process eroded the rule of law and usurped the pre-eminence of the Supreme Court in its role of interpreting the constitution.  This has impacted negatively on the rule of law and by extension the protection of human rights and political accountability.  There is also the rise of inter-religious tensions fanned by government allies.   A new dimension of inter-communal unrest is the rise of Buddhist extremism that has targeted the Muslim community and taken on an open and frontal confrontational approach.

Sri Lanka could have been a very different country today.  There is a need to recognize that although the civil war ended in 2009 the country has yet to find its path of reconciliation through an inclusive process of political negotiations and a sincere effort to heal the wounds of war.  If the recommendations of the LLRC appointed by the President had been followed, the government could have changed course last year.  Government leaders would have ceased to further engage in ethnic triumphalism and instead focused on commemorating all victims who lost their lives in the senseless conflict.  They could have utilized the occasion of May 19 to resolve that never again would such bloodletting be permitted to take place.  This would have been a commemoration that all Sri Lankans, respecting multi ethnicity, equal rights, and the safety and dignity of all, could have taken part in as a united Sri Lankan nation.

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Latest comments

  • 0

    4 years after the conclusion of the war LLRC has not been implemented. The regime is still talking about Talks!

    MR & Co are not serious about resolution of the ethnic issues, because the family is pursuing a narrow Sinhala-Buddhist hegemony.

    Keeping the citizenry confused and diverted over the ethnic issues is a grand cover for the wholesale clandestine larceny of national assets by those feeding off the trough.

    The running dogs of the regime have now been let loose in this smoke and mirrors strategy!

  • 0

    You can write as much crap as you like for your supper. The truth is, had President Rajapakse followed advice of your ilk like all his predecessors had done, Praba would be blasting human bombs around us even to date.

    • 0

      ‘One Sri Lankan Man’, have you forgotten that it was not President Rajapakse but General Fonseka who led the troops to Victory over a bunch of Terrorists? Why was he incarcerated for so long? Answer–So that Mahinda and Gotabaya and the rest of the family could gloat over the fact for as long as Possible, before the people come to their senses.

    • 0

      Why do you want Praba to bomb?
      Do you think the Cluster bombs given by China all finished. What happened to those Kfir Bombers that bombed inch by inch in the North-East Sri Lanka? What happened to those military and military camps that are used to fire shells to the no fire Zone? They are now ready and it looks like it will backfire against Sinhala Sri Lanka? We all know what you practice with Tamils backfire Poor Sinhala masses. The experts count the number of people killed or disappeared in 1989 was greater than the people killed in 2009. Is it true?

      • 0

        “Do you think the Cluster bombs given by China all finished.”

        SL has never used cluster bombs. If we had, there would be some evidence — unexploded ordnance, fragments, casings, photographic or video footage, and documentation of sales. Even years after the war, there is not a single piece of evidence to even suggest that these weapons were used.

        “What happened to those Kfir Bombers that bombed inch by inch in the North-East Sri Lanka?”

        Kfirs and other fighter/strike aircraft cannot bomb “inch by inch”. They can only hit point targets. For carpet bombing you need aircraft such as the B52.

        “What happened to those military and military camps that are used to fire shells to the no fire Zone?”

        The NFZs were fired upon because they were being used by the Tigers to fire upon the SL Army as well as civilians.

        “They are now ready and it looks like it will backfire against Sinhala Sri Lanka?”

        Ready for what? And how will “it” backfire against SL?

  • 0

    Mr. Jehan Perera! be a little more intelligent as to understand that the Armed Forces of Sri Lanka do not represent any one section of the people. They represent the entire nation and the nation is grateful that they defended it with great sacrifice. It is a shame that you seem to want to drag the Catholic church into your fictitious notion of religious strife. Examine your conscience please.

  • 0

    First of all make the victims of the Ethano Racism on top First.

    Then the victims of the Separatist war.

    1. Victims of 1958

    2. 1972

    3. 1977

    4. 1983

    Then, All the War years, Civilians, Govt Soldiers, and Rebel “Soldiers”

    Then bury this and call it Memorial Day.

  • 0

    What a great idea!! Make all people participants
    in war commemoration. Jehan Perera should be awarded
    the Nobel Peace Price his work.

    There won’t be any peace lovers or peaceniks left
    thereafter. What happens to all the NGO money he gets?

    Award himself a medal and give another to a friend?JP
    has run short of ideas.

  • 0

    Jehan when America start commemorating Bin-laden then we can do the same defeated Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).Can you imagine America or UK Will Allows to commemorate 9/11. if any one try that will be liable to be arrested.So please dont talk Bull Sxxx NGO Kakko

  • 0


    Americans Included the Rebel Confederate Soldiers who died as well in their Memorial Day.

    In Sri Lanka, due to the Sinhala Buddhist Racism, they include only the 25,000 Sti Lankan Soldiers, most of whom were Buddhist, and the non-Buddhist Soldiers are not included. Not included are the 100,000 odd civilians who died because of the Sinhala Buddhist Racism.

    The LTTE Defeat Day should be called the Memorial Day of Lanka, where Separatism, Racism, Religious Intolerance and Violence and Myths were all destroyed despite the external meddling by India and the Christian West.

    Until the Mahanama Myth inspired Sinhala Buddhist Racism is expunged, there will not be peace in the country, and there will always be suspicion.

    Thw Enlightened Lord Buddha, where are you? The Sinhala Buddhist Racists are dismissing the Venerable Dalai Lama.


    Memorial Day is a United States federal holiday which occurs every year on the final Monday of May.[1] Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.[2] Formerly known as Decoration Day, it originated after the American Civil War to commemorate the Union and Confederate soldiers who died in the Civil War. By the 20th century Memorial Day had been extended to honor all Americans who have died while in the military service[3]. It typically marks the start of the summer vacation season, while Labor Day marks its end.
    Many people visit cemeteries and memorials, particularly to honor those who have died in military service. Many volunteers place an American flag on each grave in national cemeteries.

    By the early 20th century, Memorial Day was an occasion for more general expressions of memory, as people visited the graves of their deceased relatives in church cemeteries, whether they had served in the military or not. It also became a long weekend increasingly devoted to shopping, family gatherings, fireworks, trips to the beach, and national media events.

    • 0

      Amarasiri, it is because the US Federal Government was so tolerant towards the Confederates after the Civil War that the southern ideology remained in place and Negroes remained largely without rights for another one hundred years after the war. Much of the racism in the US even today is arguably traceable back to this same mistake.

      Your story about non-Buddhist soldiers not being included in celebrations is an absolute lie. Why do you have to make up stuff like that?

      Civilian deaths are rarely commemorated in any victory celebrations. Does the US commemorate the dead of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on VJ Day, or do the British commemorate the dead of Dresden on Poppy Day? To even suggest that this be done is an indication of how out of touch with reality you are when it comes to understanding popular sentiment.

      Perhaps one day there could be a Memorial Day of the sort you mention (in spite of the fact that it has never been done anywhere else on this planet), but for that sort of thing to happen the TGIF (or whatever that Eelam government on Mars is called) will have to stop screaming about non-existant war crimes, and those protestors will have to stop calling for Eelam and waving Tiger flags. As long as any sizable group of SL Tamils within the country or without identifies itself with the Tigers and attempts to forward those same goals of separatism and revenge there will NEVER be a commemorative day of the sort that you envision.

      The Mahanama myth cannot be expunged by external pressure anymore than Islam can be reformed by persecution. Change must come from within; and it will come only when people feel free to question themselves. When people are under external pressure they do not become introspective; quite the opposite. They feel besieged and harden themselves.

      You mention American flags being placed on gravestones. Why don’t you mention the Confederate flags that are placed on gravestones; or is that not taking place?

  • 0

    ” In this charged context, the decision of the Catholic Church in Mannar to commemorate all victims of the war was pragmatic.”

    Mannar Catholic church is where Joseph Rayappu is and he is the one who said that LTTE is the angles of christ.

    There were 300,000 or more Tamils affiliated with LTTE and all of them were from maaveerar families. I don’t think they every join the celebration of the war victory against LTTE.

    Jehan perera is simply out of mind.

    I wonder whether Jehan perera carefully watched about the celebrations by the Mannar Catholic church which could have been celebrated mostly the maaveerars.

    • 0

      “Mannar Catholic church is where Joseph Rayappu is and he is the one who said that LTTE is the angles of christ.”

      Nazis Angels of Christ??? Did the pope say that too?

      At least Karl Marx said Religion is the Opium of the Masses.

      May be Joseph Rayaappu is lamenting that the Portuguese could not make Lanka a Catholic Island.

      Looks like. God did not want it that way.

      Myths, Myths, More and More Myths.

      Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, etc. etc. human gynecology Scientific Adam from Africa are all busting these MYTHS.

  • 0

    Jehan Perera is doing exactly what Kumar rupasinghe was supposed to do and he is not out of mind.

    That is, don’t associate with the govt and carry out amalgamating all religious groups on your own. Then the foreign NGOs can do what they do.

    Kumar Rupasinghe associated with the govt, so that, his funding was stopped by the foreign funding agency.

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