Remembering War Heroes
Posted on April 17th, 2012

by Senaka Weeraratna

May 19, 2009 is the Day that Sri Lanka achieved a historic victory over terrorism which had plagued this country for nearly 30 years. It is a Day of much significance as all sections of the community were affected in one way or another by the scourge of Terrorism.

The “ƒ”¹…”Daily Mirror’in an Editorial (April 10, 2012) has called on the country to stop celebrating this victory of May 2009 and putting up monuments for war heroes.

It is a serious statement coming from a mainstream newspaper which in the public interest must be challenged and denounced. Not only is such an attitude tantamount to betrayal of the country’s interest and repudiation of our core values such asgratefulness, but it is also out of step with the thinking of much of the civilized world.The main intent of war memorials in today’s world is not to glorify war, but to honor and remember the fallen i.e. those who have sacrificed their lives for a national or public cause. It is the least that a nation can do posthumously as a token of deep public gratitude. The phrase ‘Lest We Forget’ found emblazoned on war monuments erected to honour dead soldiersexpresses in a succinct way theunderlying principle.

An Epitaph inscribed on a War Memorial for the Allied fallen at the Battle of Kohimare-inforces the aforesaid point:

When You Go Home, Tell Them of Us And Say,

For Their Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today

In most European countries war memorials are fairly common and attract visitors regularlyincluding tourists. The Arc de Triomphe in Paris, Nelson’s Columnand the Cenotaph in London, Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne, Monument to the Heroes of the Warsaw Uprising in Poland,and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier dedicated to the Soviet soldiers killed during World War IIin Moscow, are some examples.

In Russia newlyweds traditionally lay flowers on war memorials as a way of thanking dead soldiers for affording the opportunity for the new couples to marry.

Asian countries also follow this practice of building war memorials. The India Gate is the national monument of India. It was built in 1931. Originally known as the All India War Memorial, it is a prominent landmark in Delhi and commemorates the 90,000 soldiers of the Indian Army who lost their lives while fighting for the Indian Empire, or more correctly the British Raj, in World War I and the Third Anglo-Afghan War.Following India’s independence, the India Gate became the site of the Indian Army‘s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, known as Amar JawanJyoti (“the flame of the immortal soldier”).

The Monument to the People’s Heroes close to Tiananmen Square in Beijing was erected as a national monument of the People’s Republic of China in memory of the martyrs who had laid down their lives for the revolutionary struggles of the Chinese people during the 19th and 20th centuries.

The Yasukuni Shrine is a controversial Shintoshrine located in Tokyo, Japan and dedicated to the soldiers and others who had died fighting on behalf of the Emperor of Japan.


In Sri Lanka war memorials are rather scarce relatively speaking. Though a few have been constructed to commemorate the dead of recent battles, there is hardly any fitting war memorials erected to remember the Sinhalese warriors whohad sacrificed their lives in defence of the Sithawaka and Kandyan Kingdoms against invading foreign armies. The local warriors who laid down their lives in the battles fought and won at Mulleriyawa, Danture, Randeniwala, and Gannoruwa, among others, must be given due recognition by the State. It is never too late. Belated recognition is still better than no recognition. Museums and plaques must be erected on these sites in a fitting and educative way.

History would admit that among our Kings, Vijayabahu the First, has perhaps the greatest claim for posthumous recognition. If not for his valour, courage and far sightedness, there would not be one intact Sri Lanka as we know it today. Other Kings and warriors whose bravery and fortitude prevented this entire land from being overrun by western Christian powers, include Mayadunne, SithawakaRajasinghe, Vimala Dharma Suriya I, Rajasinghe II, NikapitiyeBandara, among others. Our young children do learn about these great heroes while rollicking on their mother’s knee. But that alone is not enough. Patriotism and reverence for our past heroes must not be left to chance. It must be instilled in young children’s minds through instructive history lessons in the class room.

Now returning to the Daily Mirror editorial, it would indeed be a sad day for this country if the minds of those who write newspaper editorials directed at the public were influenced or manipulated by colonial or neo “”…” colonial thinking that has always dissuadedsubjugated people from standing erect andadmiring their own national heroes rather than the heroes of the colonial power.


The most striking example of such colonial thinking meant to force local national heroes out of the minds of the colonized, is the Letter from King Leopold II of Belgium to Colonial Missionaries, 1883, where the King asks the Missionaries to “ƒ”¹…”Evangelize the niggers so that they stay forever in submission to the white colonialists, so they never revolt against the restraints they are undergoing.Teach the niggers to forget their heroes and to adore only ours’

If the public fail to stand up against such anti “”…” national and unpatriotic sentiments as published in the “ƒ”¹…”Daily Mirror’, the next likely step on the part of these newspapers would be to demonisethe war heroesaccusing them of being “ƒ”¹…”war criminals’ echoing the allegations made by forces hostile to Sri Lanka and uttered with vehemence at the UNHCR proceedings held recently in Geneva.

Belgium was one of the 24 countries that voted against Sri Lanka on the alleged ground of violation of human rights at UNHCR on March 22, 2012. Of the European countries that scrambled for control of Africa at the end of the 19th century, Belgium left arguably the largest and most horrid legacy of all. Belgium has never apologized, sought forgiveness nor paid compensation to the victims.Yet it has no compunction or qualm of conscience in accusing countries that were once victims of colonial savagery, of human rights violations. It is only a matter of time before the world finally accepts that much of the so – called ethnic problems in third world countries have their roots in the western colonial period of governance.

King Leopold II of Belgium, one of Europe’s smallest countries, carved his own private colony out of 100km2 of Central African rainforest. He claimed he was doing it to protect the “natives” from Arab slavers, and to open the heart of Africa to Christian missionaries, and Western capitalists (BBC).

Letter from King Leopold II of Belgium to Colonial Missionaries,1883

The Letter from King Leopold II of Belgium addressed to Colonial Missionaries,1883, which follows is by way of Courtesy of Dr. Vera Nobles and Dr. ChiedozieOkoro.

“Reverends, Fathers and Dear Compatriots,

The task that is given to fulfill is very delicate and requires much tact.  You will go certainly to evangelize, but your evangelization must inspire above all Belgium interests.  Your principal objective in our mission in the Congo is never to teach the niggers to know God, this they know already.  They speak and submit to a Mungu, one Nzambi, one Nzakomba, and what else I don’t know.  They know that to kill, to sleep with someone else’s wife, to lie and to insult is bad.  Have courage to admit it; you are not going to teach them what they know already.  Your essential role is to facilitate the task of  administrators and industrials, which means you will go to interpret the gospel in the way it will be the best to protect your interests in that part of the world.  For these things, you have to keep watch on disinteresting our savages from the richness that is plenty [in their underground. To avoid that, they get interested in it, and make you murderous] competition and dream one day to overthrow you.

Your knowledge of the gospel will allow you to find texts ordering, and encouraging your followers to love poverty, like “Happier are the poor because they will inherit the heaven” and, “It’s very difficult for the rich to enter the kingdom of God.”  You have to detach from them and make them disrespect everything which gives courage to affront us.  I make reference to their Mystic System and their war fetish-warfare protection-which they pretend not to want to abandon, and you must do everything in your power to make it disappear.

Your action will be directed essentially to the younger ones, for they won’t revolt when the recommendation of the priest is contradictory to their parent’s teachings.   The children have to learn to obey what the missionary recommends, who is the father of their soul.  You must singularly insist on their total submission and obedience, avoid developing the spirit in the schools, teach students to read and not to reason.  There, dear patriots are some of the principles that you must apply.   You will find many other books, which will be given to you at the end of this conference.  Evangelize the niggers so that they stay forever in submission to the white colonialists, so they never revolt against the restraints they are undergoing.  Recite every day-“Happy are those who are weeping because the kingdom of God is for them.”

Convert always the blacks by using the whip.  Keep their women in nine months of submission to work freely for us.  Force them to pay you in sign of recognition-goats, chicken or eggs-every time you visit their villages. And make sure that niggers never become rich.  Sing every day that it’s impossible for the rich to enter heavenMake them pay tax each week at Sunday mass. Use the money supposed for the poor, to build flourishing business centres.  Institute a confessional system, which allows you to be good detectives denouncing any black that has a different consciousness contrary to that of the decision-maker.  Teach the niggers to forget their heroes and to adore only ours.  Never present a chair to a black that comes to visit you.  Don’t give him more than one cigarette.  Never invite him for dinner even if he gives you a chicken every time you arrive at his house’.

The above speech which shows the real intention of the Christian missionary journey in Africa was exposed to the world by Mr. MoukouaniMuikwaniBukoko, born in the Congo in 1915, and who in 1935 while working in the Congo, bought a second hand copy of a Bible from a Belgian priest who forgot to remove King Leopold’s speech kept inside his copy of the Bible. “”‚ Dr. ChiedozieOkoro.

7 Responses to “Remembering War Heroes”

  1. AnuD Says:

    In Sri Lanka, war heroes are remembered ONLY if they are dead.

    Living ones are neglected. Parents, wives and children of those who dead – are they being looked after well.

    Again, some are jailed. Because they did not keep the trust with the leader who gave the privilege to fight against the enemy. Some had to leave the country, no one talk about those.

    LTTE was barberic mostly to the other ethnic groups but served and looked after better their war heroes.

  2. sena Says:

    Anud, The dead are remembered so that the power circles can keep selling their souls to cover corruption and mismanagement. As much as trying to undermine the victory against terrorism is unpatriotic, riding on the memory of war heroes for personal gains is even more traitorous and as we are seeing such betrayals are leading to massive corruptions, lawlessness, huge budget deficits and severe hardships for the people which might result in negating the gains of defeating the terrorism and handing the rein back to them through electoral defeat and vulnerability to international strong arm actions. ,

  3. Dilrook Says:


    Most soldiers are without a land of their own. Although families of married fallen heroes receive a payment, that is not sufficient. Disabled heroes are looked after may be better than any other country given the size of the economy of the nation. More need to be done for the welfare of soldiers and their families. Otherwise we will not have any to fight the next war.

    The editorial is the most scathing attack on the military of the nation much worse than war crimes allegations.

    If Japan maintains the Yasakuni Shrine, there is absolutely no reason why Sri Lanka should not celebrate the military victory that chanegd the nation politically and economically. Going by conservative estimates 4,000 died annually due to war. That has stopped. That alone is enough to celebrate the victory.

    In a nation of very short term memory, it is not surprising someone has the audacity to suggest such a thing.

    What was said about King Vijayabahu the Great is appropriate to the current predicament. He was responsible for the total wipe out of Cholas from the island in 1070. Forgetting historically acquired military competence and knowledge was the main reason why the war dragged on for so long.

    The best way to celebrate victory is to channel the peace dividend to those who made sacrifices for the victory. What happens today is the oppositte. They get next to nothing but separatists and those who stood in the way of war enjoy all the peace dividend.

  4. Ratanapala Says:

    The following is an excerpt from the Extreme Oath of the Jesuits: This is relevant to what is stated in the main article.

    The Extreme Oath of the Jesuits
    “I, ……….., now, in the presence of Almighty God, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the blessed Michael the Archangel, the blessed St. John the Baptist, the holy Apostles St. Peter and St. Paul and all the saints and sacred hosts of heaven, and to you, my ghostly father, the Superior General of the Society of Jesus, founded by St. Ignatius Loyola in the Pontificate of Paul the Third, and continued to the present, do by the womb of the virgin, the matrix of God, and the rod of Jesus Christ, declare and swear, that his holiness the Pope is Christ’s Vice-regent and is the true and only head of the Catholic or Universal Church throughout the earth; and that by virtue of the keys of binding and loosing, given to his Holiness by my Savior, Jesus Christ, he hath power to depose heretical kings, princes, states, commonwealths and governments, all being illegal without his sacred confirmation and that they may safely be destroyed.” 

”Therefore, to the utmost of my power I shall and will defend this doctrine of his Holiness’ right and custom against all usurpers of the heretical or Protestant authority whatever, especially the Lutheran of Germany, Holland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and the now pretended authority and churches of England and Scotland, and branches of the same now established in Ireland and on the Continent of America and elsewhere; and all adherents in regard that they be usurped and heretical, opposing the sacred Mother Church of Rome. I do now renounce and disown any allegiance as due to any heretical king, prince or state named Protestants or Liberals, or obedience to any of the laws, magistrates or officers.”

”I do further declare that the doctrine of the churches of England and Scotland, of the Calvinists, Huguenots and others of the name Protestants or Liberals to be damnable and they themselves damned who will not forsake the same.”

”I do further declare, that I will help, assist, and advise all or any of his Holiness’ agents in any place wherever I shall be, in Switzerland, Germany, Holland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, England, Ireland or America, or in any other Kingdom or territory I shall come to, and do my uttermost to extirpate the heretical Protestants or Liberals’ doctrines and to destroy all their pretended powers, legal or otherwise.”

”I do further promise and declare, that notwithstanding I am dispensed with, to assume my religion heretical, for the propaganda of the Mother Church’s interest, to keep secret and private all her agents’ counsels from time to time, as they may entrust me and not to divulge, directly or indirectly, by word, writing or circumstance whatever; but to execute all that shall be proposed, given in charge or discovered unto me, by you, my ghostly father, or any of this sacred covenant.”

”I do further promise and declare, that I will have no opinion or will of my own, or any mental reservation whatever, even as a corpse or cadaver (perinde ac cadaver), but will unhesitatingly obey each and every command that I may receive from my superiors in the Militia of the Pope and of Jesus Christ.”

”That I may go to any part of the world withersoever I may be sent, to the frozen regions of the North, the burning sands of the desert of Africa, or the jungles of India, to the centers of civilization of Europe, or to the wild haunts of the barbarous savages of America, without murmuring or repining, and will be submissive in all things whatsoever communicated to me.”

”I furthermore promise and declare that I will, when opportunity present, make and wage relentless war, secretly or openly, against all heretics, Protestants and Liberals, as I am directed to do, to extirpate and exterminate them from the face of the whole earth; and that I will spare neither age, sex or condition; and that I will hang, waste, boil, flay, strangle and bury alive these infamous heretics, rip up the stomachs and wombs of their women and crush their infants’ heads against the walls, in order to annihilate forever their execrable race. That when the same cannot be done openly, I will secretly use the poisoned cup, the strangulating cord, the steel of the poniard or the leaden bullet, regardless of the honor, rank, dignity, or authority of the person or persons, whatever may be their condition in life, either public or private, as I at any time may be directed so to do by any agent of the Pope or Superior of the Brotherhood of the Holy Faith, of the Society of Jesus.”

  5. AnuD Says:

    Japan’s modern religion – Shinto- is worshiping the war heroes. I saw in Tokyo suburbs event he submarines used in the second world war.

    Only in Sri Lanka, western backed newspapers, NGOs ….are against celebrating the fallen heroes.

  6. May182009 Says:

    As we feared the referendum in NE for TE is gathering momentum. Now Indian ruling party’s Tamil Nadu coalition partner has made a request to the Indian government to support it through the UN.

    DMK president and former Tamil Nadu chief minister M.Karunanidhi Tuesday said India should take up efforts in the United Nations for holding a referendum in Sri Lanka for creation of a separate Tamil Eelam.

    Welcoming the idea of a referendum for the creation of Tamil Eelam, Karunanidhi, writing for the party mouthpiece Murasoli, said: “The demand for holding referendum amongst Tamils for the creation of Tamil Eelam is welcome.”

    “At the intervention of United Nations, some countries have been formed and got recognition. Similarly a referendum should be conducted amongst Tamils for the creation of Tamil Eelam and United Nations should take steps for that.”

    He said India should give necessary support and pressure for the measure.

    A visiting Indian parliamentary delegation held talks in Colombo yesterday to assess the post-war situation in the country, the Sri Lankan external affairs ministry said.

  7. gamunu6 Says:

    Dear Mr. Senaka Weeraratne,
    I read some time back about Daily Mirror & its editor. Now his & team’s conduct has been questioned again. It is true free press is an essential part of any democratic society. But if the press continue to be BIAS & reporting articiles, news to sway public opinion it has failed badly.

    Why is ONLY in Sri Lanka, that we never give due recognition to OUR WAR heroes who underwent numerous hardships, then & NOW even they are not properly appreciated for the suffering & winning the war for us to live in PEACE.

    Evry time in social networks, mostly women come & say ” SUPPORT OUR TROOPS”, maybe in Afganistan, Libya, or Iraq or anywhere US troops are. I have never seen any of the Sri Lanka dailies support & help war heroes & even the Govt. had somewhat neglected their plight.

    I feel we expats must commend our war heroes, widowed & wounded Sri lankan citizens who sacrified so much for the good of the Motherlad.

    Thanks you………..Just expressing my views………~ Gamunu

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