Colombo Telegraph

No “Remembrance Day”, Sirisena Celebrates “War Heroes Day”

Contrary to the government’s decision to observe May 19 as “Day of Remembrance” to commemorate all who died in the war, the government yesterday celebrated a “War Heroes day”. The President’s official website described yesterday’s celebration as “Ranaviru Day” (War Heroes day)

The Sri Lankan government, which has pledged to achieve reconciliation among the communities, four days ago has announced that May 19, which was marked as the “Victory Day” for the last five years, will be marked as a “Remembrance Day” to commemorate all who died in the war.

On May 15, Cabinet spokesman Minister Rajitha Senaratne told the media that May 19, which was celebrated as “Victory Day” during the Rajapaksa era will from this year onwards be observed as “Remembrance Day” to recall the sacrifices of all those who had fought to maintain the unity and integrity of the country irrespective of their ethnicity.

The government’s decision was welcomed by many people and attracted the attention of international media.

Jahan Perera, the executive director of National Peace Council wrote; “The government’s decision to bring the loss of life during the war into focus on this occasion through a Day of Remembrance is welcome. The democratic space that has opened up under the government of President Maithripala Sirisena needs to be used to strengthen the reconciliation process and not be used for the purpose of gaining narrow political advantage by divisive political statements. The need for reconciliation between all communities must be foremost in the minds of all people and our political leaders. The genuine Tamil grievances that created conditions for the Tamil militancy need to be addressed urgently. The government’s redefinition of May 18 to be a Day of Remembrance is one of the steps forward in the process to national reconciliation.”

New Indian Expressed carried a story titled “Rajapaksa’s ‘War Heroes’ Day’ to Counter Sirisena’s ‘Remembrance Day. The newspaper reported; Former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who hopes to romp back to power in the coming parliamentary elections on a Sinhalese-nationalist wave, will be celebrating May 18, the day on which LTTE Supremo Prabhakaran was killed, as ‘War Heroes’ Day.’ Rajapaksa’s rally to be held at Colombo’s Viharamahadevi Park is noteworthy in the context of President Maithripala Sirisena’s decision to observe May 19 as ‘Remembrance Day. to honor all Lankans, soldiers and civilians, irrespective of ethnicity, who had sacrificed their life or limb for the sake of the unity and integrity of the country. During the Rajapaksa regime, May 19 was celebrated as ‘Victory Day’ marked by a military spectacle.”

We publish below the President’s “War Heroes Day” (Ranaviru Day) speech in full;

Today we celebrate one of the most historical and significant days of the recent past. Today is the anniversary of the day in which we ended the most ruthless and barbaric terrorism that lasted 30 years, brought peace to the nation, protected the territorial integrity and sovereignty, and our national heritage.

We all have bitter experience of the barbaric nature of the LTTE war. The human qualities were subdued, barbarism raised its head and the truth was suppressed. Peace was destroyed and the bloodshed cost us thousands of lives. There will never be anything humane in a war. In this situation, our valiant forces, the Army, Navy, Air Force, Police and Civil Defense Forces sacrificed their lives and fought this war bravely in defense of Motherland.

The war that commenced in the 1980s became the worst catastrophe of our nation for three long decades. All developmental activities were at a standstill. People lost their hopes. All of them, however, committed themselves together with the members of the security forces to fight this war until victory, with much sacrifice. All of them who made such sacrifices receive the respect and honor of the nation. This honour should go to all the members of the Army, Navy, and Air Force, Police and Civil Defense Forces and all leaders of the State since 1980s who gave leadership with commitment to end this conflict. The great national service rendered by the forces cannot be valued in money. Hence, all the members of the forces receive the honour of the Government of Sri Lanka and all the citizens of the country today.

We must pay our attention to the reason why this war dragged on for 30 years. We must study the developments prior to the 30-year-old conflict and how the governments reacted then. In that era the Tamils, Muslims and other communities lived in unity as brothers. The leaders then fulfilled their responsibilities towards the people.

In the 1930s and 1940s, the freedom struggle was fought with the cooperation of all the communities and all those who follow different faiths and it succeeded in obtaining independence in 1948. After winning the freedom when we attempted to forge peace, harmony, coexistence and reconciliation, there were many shortcomings in our methods. That has resulted in divisions between the communities and its result was that we all had to face a barbaric terrorism.

With the ending of the war on May 18 and 19 of 2009, we witnessed a period of peace. We have to ask ourselves with intelligence, experience, knowledge and wisdom whether we have fulfilled the tasks, we should have performed during the post-conflict period.

I think we did not fulfill that responsibility. Prominence was given to the development of physical resources, and there was no importance given to the process of reconciliation among communities.

Though the damaged buildings, destroyed roads and other physical resources were being re-built, there was no reconciliation process during the post-war period to rebuild the broken hearts and minds. Therefore, as the new government we clearly state that our policy is that of development and reconciliation. We cannot fulfill our expectations for reconciliation only through development. The reconciliation process includes investigating the truth, carrying out justice, eliminating the fear and mistrust, building trust among every community, and re-building physical resources, which were devastated by the armed conflict. Hence, with the experience of the war, we must understand the requirement of priority for the reconciliation process.

The conflict started with an issue on water supply for cultivations. From that beginning, culminated with the final battle regarding disruption of the water supply of Mavil – Aru. The war that started over the water of Mavil – Aru ended on the water of Nandikadal Lagoon.

When considering all aspects, we understand that we have to fulfill our responsibilities by the people of Sri Lanka both today as well as tomorrow. The Government, within its policy, will be committed to carry out the reconciliation process similar to the way that the tri-forces, police and civil security force carried out their commitment in the war.

Especially, we should perform our responsibilities efficiently and properly by eliminating fear and mistrust among people, building mutual understanding among everybody and determining our own responsibilities and tasks. To overcome our challenges in the country today and tomorrow, we shall implement our slogan development and reconciliation. The honor of the entire nation will be offered to you. To make that honor the strength of the nation, as the new government, we clearly state that in all future actions we will take steps to future wellbeing of our motherland, strengthening national security.

In instructions given to security chiefs of Security Council meetings action is being taken to work out a new national security system and plan. We fully undertake responsibilities of preventing another war in this country.

We will never let brutal terrorism raise its head in this country again. We will strengthen the process of development and reconciliation and have the foremost trust and respect in the security sector led by the tri-forces.

With regard to national security, we must clearly state that we will take every step to strengthen the armed service and to create a suitable environment for the services by providing ample physical and human resources for their needs.

Sometimes, when we consider the different views and opinions of our political opponents with regard to the present government we can see the existence of some with extremist positions. Extremist groups which attempt to create disharmony among the communities exists in our country, as well as in other countries. In keeping with State Policy, we will take steps to strengthen the National Security and the Tri Forces by providing all the necessary resources to fulfill your duties and responsibilities, while, refuting and rejecting false propaganda of extremist groups.

I believe that in the future, you will fulfill your duties in most satisfactory manner considering this War Heroes Remembrance Day as the day, which brought peace to our land, and giving priority to reconciliation among communities as the responsibility of a soldier.

I must mention here that we will provide all the benefits and social welfare facilities in the development drive of our country to our beloved people, who acted with great commitment in the 30-year long war.

Today, we all consider this great day as a day, which saw the dawn peace in our land. A day that we all respect as well as a day, which opens a new chapter in our country’s development and reconciliation. As I mentioned before, all must unite for development and reconciliation in the country. We must all carry out our responsibilities together to defend the unitary status and territorial integrity on behalf of our nation and country.

All of you have placed your confidence in our government. Therefore, from today, we must work with determination to turn a new page of Peace to make this truly a land of peace.

May the Noble Triple Gem bless you all.

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