27 May, 2022


The Shift From Victory Day To Remembrance Day 

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

May 18 has been a day of divisive sentiment since the year 2009. This was the day the war ended on the battlefields of the North. This meant the dawn of peace and an end to terrorism that had plagued the country for nearly three decades. But to the Tamils who had supported the campaign of the LTTE to separate the North and East of the country, it was the bitter end of a struggle that had gone nowhere. British Tamil Forum president Fr S. J. Emanuel framed the dichotomy as “The end of the war between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE meant two entirely different things with different rationale to justify their actions. For the Government it was a victory over Tamil terrorism, end of a war and beginning of peace. But for the Tamils it was the culmination of another mass massacre of militants and civilians and the beginning of incarcerations and further militarization, robbing of lands and missing of persons.”

Remembrance can be an act of union or of division. The Victory Day event organized in Colombo on May 18 by supporters of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa titled “Protect the Motherland Liberated by Heroes” was to counter “efforts to undermine the service rendered by our valiant troops in liberating the motherland from terrorism” according to organizers of the event. The government of the former president made the victory over the LTTE the centre piece of its political programme. Its success in achieving victory over the LTTE was used time and again at election campaigns to generate nationalistic pride in the majority of people which translated into majority support at elections. May 18 became an occasion to remind the people of the war victory.

The decision of the present government headed by President Maithripala Sirisena to redefine May 18 a Day of Remembrance marks a significant break with this past. However, it is still not a complete break. The government’s decision has been to have a politically pragmatic event in the southern heartland of Matara which reflects continuity with change. This is to have a military parade, as in the past, attended by the President. The sacrifice of the Sri Lankan security forces who ensured the territorial unity of the country and the final military triumph over the LTTE and its separatist campaign will be the main theme of this event. But on this occasion the government also announced that it would make the remembrance of all who lost their lives a part of the event.

Welcome Shift 

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.

rajapaksa Victory dayThe change in government that took place after the presidential election of January 8 has led to a new relationship between the government and Tamil polity. President Sirisena’s victory at the election was made possible by the large majorities he secured in all electorates where the Tamil and Muslim votes predominated. The president is aware that the ethnic minorities placed their trust in him. Following his election he, and key members of the government, have publicly acknowledged the multi ethnic and multi religious nature of the country and the need to govern the polity through democratic means.

Since his election, President Sirisena has ensured that some of the immediate Tamil grievances have been addressed, or are in the process of being addressed. He replaced the two governors of the Northern and Eastern provinces who were former military commanders with those who are purely civilian and with a track record of sensitivity to the aspirations of the ethnic minorities. Governor Palihakkara in the North was a member of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission which produced a road map on national reconciliation for the country which has received international support. Governor Austin Fernando in the East was defense secretary during the time of the Ceasefire Agreement with the LTTE which was the period when the hope of a negotiated end to the war was at its highest.

Mutual Remembrance 

More recently, the government under President Sirisena’s leadership has also been releasing land taken over by the former government from the people in the North and East even though his good intentions have been slowed down by legal processes. There has been an opening of space for civil society activism and for the voicing of Tamil aspirations such as for a greater sharing of political power. In the context of May 18 and the declaration of Remembrance Day there has been resurgence in the resolve of civil and political groups in the North to commemorate Tamil losses in the war. This was a space that was denied during the period of the previous government. The commemoration of the dead in the North will necessarily involve LTTE cadre. They were kith and kin of the people of the North.

The challenge for the future is to ensure that the May 18 is not used for narrow and divisive political purposes. From 2009 onwards, the government did not permit the commemoration of the LTTE and cracked down on the public commemorations in the North and East, even of those events that were ostensibly to mourn everyone who lost their lives. This was on account of the inseparability of the LTTE and the civilian losses in the last phase. On this occasion too, the government has not been willing to permit the public commemoration of May 18 in the North, and took out injunctions from the courts to block such commemorations. There were plans to declare a “week of genocide” in the North by sections of the Northern polity and civil society.

One of the key recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission appointed by the previous government was that there should be a Day of Remembrance in which all who lost their lives should be commemorated and the war be seen as a collective tragedy. All who lost their lives whether members of the security forces, LTTE or civilians were Sri Lankan citizens. Each group, and community, must remember the other when they commemorate May 18 whether in the North or in the South. Peace cannot be built by remembering victory and defeat. Peace can only be built on what we share. What the people of Sri Lanka share in common is that the war was a tragedy in which the sons and daughters of the country suffered and died, and we resolve that it will never happen again and there is a meeting of minds in the resolve to overcome the past and to have a shared future. The government needs to also address longer term Tamil and other minority grievances. This is the best kind of reconciliation.

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Latest comments

  • 4

    The Tamils have to be convinced. Vithya, Saranya and similar ones Take the faith away and bring serious suspicion. The younger ones are boiling as what happened before. The south and International media is very indifferent. The same old role is seen.
    You may notice the TN is slowly awakening.

  • 4

    Usage of the word”minority” itself is a form of discrimination and reflects inequality.

    • 1

      If a certain percentage by numbers are greater than a certain percentage of numbers, it is called majority and minority respectively. We can’t change facts.

  • 2

    Jehan Perera –

    RE:The Shift From Victory Day To Remembrance Day

    Yes, this should be the Remembrance day, for all those died since February 4, 1948 due to the Para-Sinhal and Para-Tamil Racism and Chauvinism in the Land of Native Vedda Aeythho, along with the activities of the other Paras, the Para-Muslims and others.














    The Land of Native Veddah Aethho is suffering because of these Paradershis, Paras. So, remember all those Para, and move pm.

    Call May 18th as the Memorial Day of the Para. Remember the dead, and remember the sheer stupidity of the Paras.

    The Vedda Tribe


  • 6

    Will the USA and the west who are your patrons allow remembrance day for Osama Bin Ladan,Al-Qaeda, ISIS and Taliban etc.
    There is no problem remembering the Tamil people who died by there friends and families but never VP and LTTE.

  • 4

    I have held a somewhat dissenting view from the generally held view about “victory celebrations” over defeat of terrorism in Sri Lanka and also over the construction of what the Defence Ministry website called “a Victory Monument.” at Pudukudurippu. If in 1970, Adolf Hitler’s grave was incinerated and ashes sprinkled over a river in Germany to his grave becoming a spot for ritual, the Victory Monument could now serve the very purpose that the earlier action sought to efface…. That is if it will not be a thorn in the eyes of the Tamil people.wrote. Who will want to visit this desolate place? I wrote.As I was writing soon after the erection of the Monument, “Even now it is time to demolish it and build a national monument to the fallen in this desultory war in a more appropriate place” I suggested. My article “Hold! “Betrayal by Fonseka”: Listen to this” published in The Island, SatMag,22/12/2009.
    My reasoning was too fold.
    Even though big states like US demonstrated jubilation over the defeat of Germany and Japan in WWW II, we as a more civilized nation and inheritors of great cultural values we could be different to others, I wrote, taking lessons from what was demonstrated by our national hero of all times, King Dutugemunu who after he had been victorious over Tamil usurper Elara, suffered remorse over the deaths of millions in the war on both sides, undertook undertook meritorious work like building the Mahathupa (which I think is a veritable war memorial built in the 1st century BC, long before the Spaniards built their own war memorial in the hill side city of Esqurial (which I visited several times)to remember the millions who died in the civil war. That was after giving a right royal cremation to his fallen aversary,Elara, fit for a noble king, and building a monument in his memory, at which he ordained that no prince in future shall pass it playing music or riding in a chariot. As Maj Davy, the British Army Medical officer wrote, the practice was observed in 1848 when Keppetipola fleeing the British troops after the failure of the Uva Rebellion got off his litter and walked until he had passed the monument. Dr James Rutnam commenting on it called it Dutugemunu’s chivalry!
    This is not a plea for such treatment as Dutugemunu accorded to the Just-King Elara to the megalomaniac Prabhakaran. It is best that his memory is allowed to fade as that of Adolf Hitler.
    Now, what has happened? My fears have been vindicated. The response has come in the form of what some members of the TNA are openly trying to hold a ceremony where Prabhakaran fell. Didn’t we invite this response? Had there been a national monument commemorate the dead in the desultory war, should not we being seeing a situation where all citizens could be paying their respect together to the fallen?
    That may not be acceptable to some who see the need to boost up the morale of the armed forces who took upon themselves the major brunt of LTTE fury and to the people who suffered and lived fear of attack anywhere anytime. Yes, there may be a point in that. Countries are still celebrating the victory against German fascism. But such manifestations could have been corrected through appeal to our noble religions and heritage. That did not happen. The Rajapksa govt made living of the victory and as I now write its cohorts and no one less than the former President is readying to lead the war cry at ViharamahaDevi Park misleading the public not for its own sake but to make a political comeback to regain lost opportunities. Sad!

  • 7

    Day I am praying for:

    1- A day when both all Sri Lankans do mourn all the war dead, injured and otherwise affected, irrespective of their ethnicity or religion.

    2- A day where a Buddhist priest holds a religious ceremony and gives the ‘pin’ to all of the above without exception, including Prabhakaran.

  • 4

    EDWIN RODRIGO “A day where a Buddhist priest holds a religious ceremony and gives the ‘pin’ to all of the above without exception, including Prabhakaran. “

    Why dont you be more inclusive and embrace all religion to pray together and remember those who sacrificed their life whether Sinhala Soldier Tamil Militants or Civiilans

  • 0

    The name change of May 18 is exactly the name change of the Old Royal to New Royals. There is no freedom at all to remember the lost ones. Army and police is selecting who and who can do the remembrance. That is, in hard word, who are ready to be converted to Sinhala Buddhist allowed to remember their lost ones. The ones want to remain as respectable Tamils are chased away from Mullivaikkal to remember their relatives. This name change is basically a pushing forward force to accept the New Royal demand. This is not freedom for the ones to freely remember their relatives.

    Other than this dupe master of name change, there is not news about the ones picked up by the army and white van. So far no hidden prison has be opened to public. All the Rehabilitated and released ones entire families still in watch. Those who watched by army, if they return to Lankave to see their loved ones who still carrying a life in their body, arrested in the airport itself. They can not even return to their newly adopted mother land.

    Dupe master Jehan is bragging about the Governor changes. 13A allows the councils to recommend a person they like. Nobody in the NPC or EPC was asked who are their selections. They appointed two cover up masters who served in that capacity in the past as the new Governors. One was used to covered up through a notorious report called LLRC report. Other one had some interest, but served in the army. In fact that is a more advantages name change to Sinhala Intellectuals as military to civilian than “Old Royal to New Royal” and “Victory day to Remembrance day” Further now, everybody now knows why the Lankave Royal Governments signed the peace accord with Tamils. Karuna is the living witness of it. Ranil is keep claiming how he broke the back of the LTTE with that peace accord. The writer Tissaranee Gunasekara clearly explains in her essays why the old Royal Government gave even money to Thalaivar Pirapharan. The current foreign minster who calm down the TNA paid the money to LTTE.

    The Sinhala Interllectual are number one dupe masters. Jehan, who was invited by Brother prince to warn about the NGO,s activities, came out of the meeting and wrote a lie that the Brother Prince had changed the mind so that wants to work with the NGOs. This propaganda king once again writing white washes to save the war criminal defense minister who has become the EP.

    New Royal has repeatedly said that “anything for Tamils is only after the parliament election if they vote second time as per these criminal demands”. Ranil went to Mullaithivu and asked the Education Department to take full control of the section. This is the pre-works to teach the Tamils too the Mahavamsa bestiality stories. He refused give that money to NPC to deal with their education problems. When a principal try to stand up and ask question as all what their are doing only name change Ranil Mahata ordered him to shut up and sit down. This was more disgraceful to that principal than the teacher was forced to kneel don in the south. There no even a name change.

  • 1

    Jehan is a repugnant apologist for Tigers. He and Sara both said Tigers couldn’t be defeated. They were ecstatic everytime there was a set back. They never condemned Tigers. Now this clown has got some air time again to cluck cluck.

  • 3

    when all major countries celebrate victory over evil I.e Hitler – even 70 years on, as recently celebrated by Russia with participation from even their traditional enemies like China and India in attendance, why is it wrong to celebrate victory over terrorism in Sri Lanka ? Romanticizing Prabakaran and LTTE as freedom fighters and remembering their death is an insult to all those who were brutally murdered, including civilian men women and children, clergy, political leaders and even Rajiv Gandhi – is atrocious !! Those who fought with the LTTE did so with the sole intention of killing ! There’s a big difference between that and the armed forces who fought to save the nation from grips of terror. Remembering the LTTE is equivalent to remembering Hitler and the Nazi army ! Let’s not paint a murderer as a saint ! There was serial killing for 30 years ! No country has thus far eradicated terrorism despite all their sophisticated weaponry and technology. We have cause to celebrate this phenomenon with pride and joy ! Let’s call victory a VICTORY! Not some lame version of remembrance to pacify politically driven agendas of TNA and pro-LTTE diaspora ! There’s no space for reconciliation as long as TNA and pro- LTTE diaspora are driving an agenda of political separation – theirs was a revenge vote against MR and not one of TRUST placed in MS !

    • 0

      That is so simple man. You are not ready to face the international court the way those who affected by Hitler did.

      Come out of your hiding cave built with lies, blackmailing, intimidating, white vanning and face the ICC to prove your version of Hitler story.

      Lets start with you as the first to give energy to get your victims of Hitler to face the ICC. Here after you write one recommendation(a comment) a day in the CT for your guys to some to light and face the ICC.

      Come on man. Be Brave.

  • 1

    Dear Rajash,

    As a Buddhist, I feel that I should start with my own religion. Besides, I feel that the Buddhist priests are less flexible in this matter than other relgious leaders.

    When Jesus Christ was being crucified, he is supposed to have said:
    “Father, forgive them because they know not what they do”. In my opinion that is a perfect example of the Metta (Maitriya) that Buddha preached.

  • 2

    We all know Jehan Perera’s track record with a bleeding heart for the LTTE ideology under the guise of bleeding for the “Tamil community”

    • 2

      Jehan Perera did not have a bleeding heart for anybody. He is paid to perpetuate conflict.

  • 1

    We all know Jehan Perera’s track record with a bleeding heart for the LTTE ideology under the guise of bleeding for the “Tamil community”

    He is now spreading his hate to the next generation hand in hand with the Separatists.

    Nobody objects to Civilians being remembered on which ever dates they died in this 27year old terrorism history fuelled by the UNP across time.

    Sane people object to any space been given to Terrorists being venerated and celebrated. Sane people object to the Civilian Separatists who are trying to sanctify the actions of the Terrorists and Separatist ideologues.

    Try not to muddy the waters here. Jehan will go down in history as one of the pawns of the separatists who thinks he is a freedom fighter – just like VP!

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