Every year, the month of November is an emotional and moving time where Eelam Tamils around the world and supporters of the Tamil struggle collectively stop to commemorate the unimaginable sacrifices made by our freedom fighters, our martyr-heroes, our Maveerar. Leaving behind their dreams and separating from their families, our brothers and sisters in Eelam sacrificed their lives to free us safe from the enduring political and ethnic violence Tamils were experiencing on the island of Sri Lanka.
The first Maveerar Naal ceremony was held on the 27th of November 1989, honouring the thousands of fallen soldiers. This date was selected based on our first fallen hero, Lt. Shankar Sathiyanathan in 1982. Since then, it was the only day of the year, the then LTTE Supremo addressed the Tamils and laid down the objectives of the struggle and the charted the future course of action.
The LTTE was a voluntary force and derived strength from the commitment of its cadre to take up arms to fight against brutal Sinhala regies bent upon wiping out the Tamils from Sri Lanka. In this violent struggle for the right to self-determination of Tamils, thousands of young Tamil women and men have laid down their lives for a cause, a very dear cause, for every Tamil to escape the clutches of the oppressive Sinhala regimes and re-establish the lost homeland of the Tamils.
The Maveerar Naal is a holy day for Eelam Tamils world over, since 2009, even Tamils in India have been commemorating this very special day. For every Eelam Tamils there is a very emotional, spiritual attachment to observe this day. It is observing a collective memory. It is a day to vent out the emotions and for the community to gather together. Families in the north and east all had at least someone sacrifice their sacred lives for the freedom of Eelam Tamils. This day helps promote the Tamil community’s social recovery from the violent conflict, and bring to light the injustices and discrimination the Maaveerar and us as a population have been through. Hence, Maveerar Naal is a Tamil National memorialization day which must to accepted and respected. It is a public day and needs to be observed at a public place to grieve someone very dear.
Memorialization is extremely important in order to keep memories alive, to mark the highest sacrifices made by our women and men, and to refresh and recommit ourselves to continue the struggle for transitional justice and accountability which is being constant undermined by national and international bodies of power. Memorialization is a highly politicalized process which reflect the will of those in power. In a place like Sri Lanka, where the governing body which perpetuated the mass atrocities including the war crimes and genocide continues to govern the victims, it is merely impossible for Tamils to take part in the process of memorialization.
Whether the Sinhalese and the world like it or not, those who fought and were killed in the conflict did not fight their war, they fought our war, a war for to seek equality, justice and restore the Tamil pride which we enjoyed for many thousands of years and suddenly had been deprived of. We have been living under Sinhala colonization since the British decolonization in 1948. No war can be just, but states have a duty towards civilians. It is our historical duty to remember those who laid down their lives for a cause very dear to most of the Tamils around the world.
The Maveerar, fought for their people’s cause, hence they are our HEROES. The terrorism label given to the LTTE group of Tamil freedom fighters who fought for the peace and freedom of all Tamils in Sri Lanka, is a clear depiction of the Sri Lankan government’s effort to diminish the Tamil struggle and deny the rights of the Tamil population, forcing them to the status of a permanent minority in their own land. This terrorism label continues to deny any opportunities for the Tamil struggle today to seek the help of international governing bodies.
All our war hero’s cemeteries which once stood up with pride on November 27th, are razed to the ground and converted as military playgrounds or areas under army occupation. The mothers, wives, sisters and relatives of our heroes cannot even visit the places where our heroes are buried. Respecting the dead is revered in every culture, the Sri Lankan state does not have this culture to respect the dead if they are ideologically opposed to you, hence they treat even the dead as their enemies and brand the families of the dead as ‘terrorist families’. One must remember that one’s terrorist is another person’s hero if they are fighting for their people’s cause.
Across the world from Canada to Europe to Australia, the Eelam Tamils have observed the Maveerar Naal in the most peaceful manner and the respective governments are a testimony to the peaceful ways we have conducted this special Tamil Day. Maveerar Naal is not a glorification of war or a propaganda to restart an armed conflict, it is a day of prayers, offering and meeting members of our community to grieve together as a collective duty of our community to our beloved dead ones.
The Rajapaksa brothers have taken pride in proclaiming that they have eliminated LTTE from the face of the earth, if they have so confidently done that, why are they still denying the Tamils to observe November 27th as a day to respect their dead heroes? What is the state scared of? Whom are they scared of? The dead will not come back to fight another war but they will certainly inspire us to continue our fight towards the Tamils right to self-determination sans weapons, in a peaceful democratic manner. On the contrary memorialization will help the families as well as the young ones to remind them the horrors of the war and the violence that befalls on the whole community. Denying this physical, emotional and psychological space is a denial and travesty of justice.
With great pride and honor, I salute our freedom fighters, our Maveerar who relentlessly fought in the battlefields till the end moment and dedicated their lives to their goal to secure the freedom of all Eelam Tamils. Honoring the fallen lives of our Maveerar, let us commemorate their unimaginable sacrifices and continue the Maveerar’s ultimate dream of securing freedom and the Tamil’s right to decide their political destiny.
*The Author is a Member of the TGTE and seeks a peaceful political solution to the Tamil Right to Self Determination.