OPEN LETTER TO H.E. THE PRESIDENT, HON. PRIME MINISTER, CABINET MINSTERS AND MPS DESIGNATE THE 19th OF MAY AS THE ‘DAY OF NATIONAL UNITY’
Posted on June 2nd, 2018

Mahinda Gunasekera Toronto, Ontario, Canada

The Editor
Island Newspaper
Colombo, Sri Lanka

Dear Sir,

OPEN LETTER TO H.E. THE PRESIDENT, HON. PRIME MINISTER, CABINET MINSTERS AND MPS

DESIGNATE THE 19th OF MAY AS THE ‘DAY OF NATIONAL UNITY’

The 19th of May is a day of great significance to the people of Sri Lanka who were able to step outside their cages of fear and breathe the freedoms guaranteed to each and every citizen by the National Constitution including the Right to Life, which had been hijacked by the internationally designated armed LTTE terrorists for a period in excess of three decades. This day in the year 2009 marked the total defeat of the terrorist forces which sought to tear the island asunder and establish a separate mono-ethnic state creating a long and hostile border which would have resulted in endless wars with foreign interventions to expand their territorial boundaries. The so called ‘Final War of Liberation’ thrust on the Sri Lankan authorities by the terrorist forces was brought to a finish by the well co-ordinated operations of the security forces which completely routed the terrorists but also rescued nearly 300,000 Tamil civilians forced to form a human shield and over 12,000 surrendering LTTE cadres.

This was the joyous day when the long lost radiance of peace spread to every nook and corner of the island and the rights and freedoms of the people at large were restored. The nation came together to assist the mass of internally displaced civilians who had to be temporarily housed and cared for in welfare camps pending the demining of the land and making their former places of residence safe to return. The former fighting cadres of the LTTE who had been only trained to kill were put through rehabilitation courses and given new life skills that will allow them to earn their keep. Steps were also taken to immediately rebuild the road, rail and air links between the north and south which enabled the people to criss-cross the country once again exercising the Freedom of Movement which had been seriously curbed by the ongoing hostilities. The massive development carried out in the north using around 85-90 percent of the national budget enabled this region to register GDP growth in excess of 20 percent while the national average was about 7 percent.

As the Tamil IDPs escaped from their hell holes manned by armed LTTE cadres behind high earthen berms (bunds) and deep ditches in the latter part of 2008 and early part of 2009 swelling their numbers to around 35-40 thousand, the people of the south launched the ‘Brotherhood Train’ starting from Matara to carry donated food and other essentials for their use including small contributions of a pound of sugar, rice or a single coconut by poorer members of the community. Our association SLUNA Canada too air shipped $70,000 worth of Medicines obtained from the Pharmaceutical Companies for treating the IDPS, and further provided all school supplies to children attending the newly opened school in Shanthimale in the EP and distributed 500 mosquito nets to the village residents of Omanthai.

The armed Tamil Tiger insurgency gradually crumbled as they retreated from the nearly 25 percent of the island’s land area which they had usurped to a few square kilometers on the northeast coast around Mullivaikal in the Mullaitivu district, where they held out without submitting to the call to surrender using the civilian population they had herded and moved from the northwest coast and Vanni regions to form a human shield. Their stubborn stand was aimed at creating a human catastrophe in order to draw the military intervention by western forces and asylum outside the country for the LTTE leadership, perhaps in Eritrea, so that they could continue their armed struggle in pursuit of their mono-ethnic racist separate state of “Eelam”. The security forces abandoned the use of heavy weapons, but embarked on military strategies to rescue the trapped civilians thereby suffering massive losses on their part, by stealthily taking control of the berms or bunds to target the armed terrorist fighters. The battles were soon over with the elimination of the LTTE leaders and fighters, the silencing of guns in the morning of May 19th, 2009, ushered in an era of peace for the people of the island who had suffered for so long. The armed forces had the added task of counting, screening and feeding the mass of people fleeing from LTTE terrorist control behind the battle lines.

The dawn of peace on 19th May 2009 also rallied the nation to face up to the enormous task of taking care and resettling of over 400,000 IDPs with the limited means available to this war ravaged country. She excelled in the demining of the land and subsequent resettlement of the displaced persons far better than similarly affected nations, and even better than the mighty USA which has been abysmally slow in settling her citizens affected by the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina.

The peace that emerged opened the way for people to people movements to play an important role in assisting in the healing and reconciliation process. Among those programs that contributed to bringing the people of the south and north together were the 670 km ‘Trails Walk’ of 2011 from Dondra to Jaffna which raised money to establish a Cancer Care Hospital in Tellippillai, Jaffna. Prof. Michael Roberts has written about doctors, other individuals and organizations that volunteered to assist the IDPs housed at the welfare camps in Vavunia too numerous to mention here, some of whom are cited in his article which could be accessed at the following link: https://www.scribd.com/document/202053396/IDP-Camps-2009-Humanitarian-Work-in-Midst-of-Propaganda-War-by-Dr-Michael-Roberts. Organizations such as the Foundation of Goodness, Sri Lanka Unites, etc. expanded their services to bring the multi-ethnic constituent communities together and continue to play a role even today.

May 19th was initially called Victory Day and later in 2015 renamed as Remembrance Day.       While neither of these names signify the real meaning of this day where victory over terrorism was achieved after much sacrifices of life and limb, it also opened the way for peace and a new beginning where the humanitarian freedoms and rights were restored to all of the people. It is essential that we remember the sacrifices and valour of the members of the security forces and the pain and suffering borne by innocent civilians, let us recognize the peace that followed allowing the people to extend their hands in friendship and camaraderie. LET US THEREFORE CALL IT THE ‘NATIONAL UNITY DAY’ THAT BRING US ALL TOGETHER AGAIN AS ONE NATION UNDER ONE FLAG IN PEACE AND HARMONY.

Mahinda Gunasekera

Toronto, Ontario, Canada M1W 3L9

Dated: June 2, 2018

 

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