ERASING THE EELAM VICTORY Part 3
Posted on November 29th, 2019

KAMALIKA PIERIS

The Tamil Separatist Movement has charged that Eelam War IV was an act of genocide by the Sri Lanka government. This was yet another way of erasing the Eelam victory, by declaring that the Eelam war was not a clean war, it was genocide initiated by the government. The Tamil Separatist Movement started to call May 18th Genocide Day.

The idea of Genocide Day came from Tamil Separatists living outside Sri Lanka. In 2015 Tamils in Switzerland called for a Genocide Day on May 18 2015,to protest the 6th anniversary of the victory over war. Tamils in UK also joined in.

Genocide celebrations started in earnest in 2017. Yahapalana government permitted such celebrations. Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran thanked the government for allowing the people to remember the cadres killed in the conflict. Education Minister, Northern Province, had ordered that flags be hung at half mast in schools and that the celebrations must include the school children. 

At least 40 events were held across the Northern Province in 2017. Thousands of people took part in ceremonies at decorated tombs where LTTE cadres had been buried, reported the media. People also remembered their relatives not just in burial sites but in their residences and kovils as well, the media said.   There were two events where the organizers had displayed the portraits of LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran.

In 2018, the main celebration was at Mullavaikkal. A commemorative event was organized at the Mullivaikkal memorial ground on May 18   to mark what the Tamil National Alliance called the 9th anniversary of the Mullivaikkal Genocide Day, reported the media. It was organized by civil society organizations and political parties and was attended by TNA leader R Sampanthan and Northern Chief Minister C V Wigneswaran. Sampanthan was heckled by some of the participants as he spoke. The suggestion that May 18 be declared a Day of Genocide was made at this event.  

Several thousands of people attended the ceremony of remembrance held there  at the monument erected in memory of the civilians killed in the war, said Jehan Perera.  Yahapalana government did not obstruct these activities.

However, at this event, the TNA politicians who attended the event were not permitted to speak. Instead university students and nationalist members of civil society groups took the centre stage. The Chairman of the Northern Provincial Council was physically stopped from entering the podium. The only politician who addressed the gathering was Northern Chief Minister C V Wigneswaran.  Today, we gather together to remember the 9th anniversary of Mullivaikkal Genocide Day, he declared.” Every May 19 hereafter must be declared as Tamil genocide day,

Chief Minister Wigneswaran said that the Tamil community had been subjected to ‘institutional genocide’. Wigneswaran sought an assurance from the international community (read as Western powers) as regards a sustainable political settlement based on their sovereignty, their homelands and their individuality. 

Wigneswaran moved a six-point resolution. They were: declaring every May 18 in the coming years as “Tamil Genocide Day,” an international mechanism to be set up by the international community to ensure justice for the people affected by the genocide, ensure a sustainable political settlement based on Tamil sovereignty, homeland and individuality, withdrawal of the armed forces from the Tamil areas of traditional habitation and the necessary infrastructure to rehabilitate the people directly,

Wigneswaran had more to say. “Still steadfast in their Mahawansa-oriented perception, the Sinhalese politicians consider the Mullivaikal debacle as the end of a Tamil – Sinhala war. That is why commemorative victory festivals are held in the South during this period,” said Wigneswaran. “Calling on the military to withdraw completely from the North-East, Wigneswaran said,”The Vanni area has become the citadel for Sinhala colonization. Especially in this Mullaitivu District both land and sea have been seized by force by the Armed Forces.

HERE ARE FURTHER EXCERPTS FROM THE MULLIVAIKAL DECLARATION OF 2018.

We would like to declare today as the Awakening Day of Tamil Nation against Genocide and we declare year 2019 is a year to heighten the international support for political justice and campaign against Genocide. (Mullivaikal Declaration, 2018.)

This year marks the tenth year since the Mullivaikal massacre in May, 2009. The unitary Sri Lanka state that is constructed on Sinhala-Buddhist ideology perpetrated structural genocide against the Tamils phase by phase since its independence in 1948, and this still continues in the post-Mullivaikal setting. (Mullivaikal Declaration, 2018)

The Tamils were killed, tortured, raped, enforced disappeared, forcibly displaced (enforced displacement) for the fact that they were Tamils. Sinhala-Buddhist supremacists have for decades portrayed Tamils as settlers from outside and they imagine Sri Lanka primarily as a Sinhala-Buddhist country.  Since the colonial powers departed from Sri Lanka, Sinhala-Buddhist supremacists have been able to execute their genocidal hatred of the Tamils through the unitary state, the highpoint of which was in Mullivaikal. (Mullivaikal Declaration, 2018)

The post-Mullivaikal era has marked by Sinhala-Buddhisisation and militarization of the North-East provinces. The traditional lands have been deprived for the Tamils by the armed forces under the guise of  Mahaweli development projects, archeology and forest department works. The Sinhala state is using collective psychological operations to thwart any resistance thus planting fear psychosis among people. After the end of armed struggle arrests, threats and surveillance continue to take place. The space for freedom of speech in the North-East has been curtailed. The perpetrators of genocide and war crimes on the other hand have been portrayed as heroes of the nation. (Mullivaikal Declaration, 2018)

In as much as it is the inalienable right of every nation to enjoy full political freedom without which its spiritual, cultural and moral stature must degenerate, and in as much as the Tamil People in Sri Lanka constitutes a nation distinct from that of the Sinhalese by every fundamental test of nationhood, firstly that of a separate historical past on this island at least as ancient and glorious as that of the Sinhalese; secondly by the fact that there being a linguistic entity entirely different from that of the Sinhalese, with an unsurpassed classical heritage and a modern development of language which makes Tamil adequate for all present day needs, and finally, by reason of their territorial habitation of the north and east of this island, and because it is this very existence that the Sri Lanka State wishes to destroy through the genocide and structural genocide of the Tamils. (Mullivaikal Declaration, 2018)

We make the following call:

  • To strengthen the call to refer Sri Lanka to the International criminal court (ICC)   for the crimes perpetrated by the Sri Lankan state, especially genocide;
  • To demand for the Tamil people in Sri Lanka, the recognition of the Tamil nation and its inalienable right to political autonomy on the basis of our people’s distinct sovereignty and inalienable right to self-determination;
  • To call for the North-East merger, the territorial habitation of the Tamils because it is this very existence that the Sri Lanka State wishes to destroy through the genocide and structural genocide of the Tamils;
  • To prevent the structural genocide unleashed on the collective existence of Tamils;
  • To strengthen social structures in the North-East in order to take the struggle for Tamil collective rights forward; (Mullivaikal Declaration, 2018 End of statement)

14 British MPs sent messages of support to this Tamil Genocide Remembrance day. Here are some of the messages.

Bob Blackman MP for Harrow East, Executive Officer of APPGT: “We honour those who lost their lives in the Civil War this Mullivaikkal Remembrance Day and shall do so every May 18th. Justice now for Tamils and for the Sri Lankan government to be held accountable for their actions”.

Gareth Thomas MP for Harrow West: “As the Member of Parliament for Harrow West, with the largest Tamil community in the UK I have seen many cases of constituents directly affected by the terrible events that occurred during the conflict. I have spoken to countless Tamil constituents who lost relatives killed or injured in the fighting. I have seen the scars of people tortured in police cells, heard the stories of those who fled from communities where their friends and neighbours had been raped or murdered in cold blood or who had land and property stolen from them by the military. The demand for justice remains loud and clear. The scale of human rights abuses will never be forgotten. The demand for an international UN-led investigation remains as pressing now as it did 9 years ago and I will always, always, be a champion for action against those responsible for the abuses all of us know happened.”

Robert Halfon, Member of Parliament for Harlow said: “On this very important day of remembrance, we should give our thanks to every member of the Tamil community who keep the flame of the Tamils alive. And we remember all the tragic victims of the genocide of the Tamils. We remember all the awful treatment of the Tamils by the Sri Lankan regime. The Tamils deserve their autonomy. The Tamils deserve equality of opportunity. The Tamils deserve equality. One must never forget.”

Labour Party MP Joan Ryan, Vice Chair of All Party Parliamentary Group for Tamils (APPGT) also sent a message. Ryan was former Chief Executive and Policy Advisor of UK headquartered Global Tamil Forum (GTF). Having represented Enfield North from 1997, Ryan was rejected by the electorate at the 2010 parliamentary polls and soon joined the GTF as its Chief Executive and Policy Advisor. Ryan gave up the assignment in 2015 when she regained Enfield North. The Labour Party politician had been also embroiled in parliamentary expenses scandal, as one of those beneficiaries of highly controversial claims and was directed to repay.

 Those leaving the commemorative event at Mullivaikkal were offered cool drinks by the Army. Troops of the 68 Division, deployed in the Mullivaikkal area, provided the cool drinks. Those returning to the Jaffna peninsula, after having participated in the Mullivaikkal commemoration, were also provided refreshments by 55.2 Brigade deployed in the Iyyakachchi area, a former LTTE stronghold, north of Elephant Pass.

Objections to the Vellamullivaikal commemoration was raised at pinkama held at Peliyagoda Vidyalankara Pirivena for soldiers who had died in the war. It was presided over by Ven, Valivitiyawe Kusaladhamma. There were protests in several other places as well, such as Kegalle. The relatives of soldiers who had died, demonstrated on Galle- Matara road. An effigy of Prabhakaran was set on fire at Suriyawewa. Northern Provincial Council must be dissolved  immediately,  others said.   Sarath  Weerasekera said we have not have a government like this before which attacks the Eelam victory  in this manner.

There were celebration in 2019 too. Here is  a first person report on the celebrations at Mullavaikkal in 2019. Ruki Fernando wrote, I then went to Mullivaikkal beach, where the war came to a bloody end. Locals as well as many others from the North and East were present. Amongst those present were those whose family members were killed, or disappeared after surrendering to the Army. Community activists who had been campaigning to regain military occupied civilian lands were also there. Tamil politicians were present, but they didn’t play any significant part. Lamps were lit and Mullivaikkaal Declaration” was read out, though many present had tears in their eyes and seemed too overcome with emotion to listen and understand Foreign Tamil media were visible, but mainstream English and Sinhalese media were conspicuously absent.

Mullivaikkaal Kanji (porridge)” was a striking feature of 18th May in the North, continued Ruki Fernando. This plain and simple food was all the hundreds of thousands in precarious situation in bunkers, tents and on the move could eat in the last few months of the war. Ten years later, there are calls to have Mullivaikkaal Kanji” for one meal on 18th May, to remember what happened. Kanji was served along the Northern roads after the Mullivaikkaal memorial. My friend’s family had only Kanji for lunch that day. Having Mullivaikkaal Kanji for one meal across the country on May 18 could be one way Sri Lankans can unite, commemorate and express solidarity with the war dead, their families and survivors, suggested Ruki. 

 In 2019, to mark the tenth anniversary of  the massacre that took place at the end of the armed conflict in Mullivaikkal on May 18, 2009, over sixty Tamil Diaspora organizations signed a declaration of solidarity to work towards justice for genocide, demilitarization and Tamil self-determination.

 The  joint statement said, On 18 May 2019, ten years since the Sri Lankan state’s genocide against the Tamil nation reached its peak, we stand in solidarity with our brethren in their quest for justice. We believe that an international independent investigation is the only credible path to achieve criminal accountability and justice for mass atrocity crimes committed against the Tamil people, including for over 146,679 Tamil people unaccounted for during the final stages of the war in the Vanni region.

Sri Lanka’s continuing state oppression and persecution of the Tamil people and its persisting military occupation of the Tamil homeland only further justifies the Tamil nation struggle for self-determination. We declare today that  we will stand in solidarity with the Tamil victims and survivors and pledge to continue to strive for peace justice and freedom for the Tamil nation, concluded the statement. ( Continued)

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