ERASING THE EELAM VICTORY Part 18A
Posted on December 7th, 2020

KAMALIKA PIERIS

Part 18 of this series contains short updates on matters discussed earlier. This essay provides an update on   celebrations of the Eelam War.

 In July 2020, a group of Jaffna undergraduates celebrated Black Tiger Day on a Sunday night. Leading activists of several student bodies organized the event. Student participants were asked to offer flowers and light candles in front of pictures of the dead Black Tigers.

The Black Tigers are members of the LTTE Suicide Squad. They were inspired by the Lebanese Hezbollah bombing of the US marine barracks and French paratrooper HQ bombings in Beirut in 1983. The first   Black Tiger, Vallipuram Vasanthan, drove a truck laden with explosives into the Army camp at Nelliady, Jaffna on 5 July 1987, killing and injuring 40 Sri Lankan soldiers.  But the soldiers fought back and LTTE was unable to take the camp.

In September 2020, the north decided they wished to commemorate the death of Thileepan”, Rasaiah Parthipan. Thileepan had held a death fast on 11 September, 1987, to secure a five-point charter of demands including the setting up of an LTTE-dominated Interim Administrative Council for Northern-Eastern province, as part of the India-Sri Lanka Accord. The authorities refused to accept this. Thileepan refused to give up his fast and died after 11 days on 26 September, 1987. He was a cancer patient and was not in a condition to undertake a fast. The fast took place in a specially built dais near the Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil.

In November, 2020, the law courts banned an event to commemorate Thileepan in Vavuniya .The organizers made a second request which was also refused.   Northern parliamentarians wrote to the government, asking to put up a statue to Thileepan. They said that that commemorating the dead in the North is a human right and that they should be granted permission to commemorate the war dead. If the government did not permit this then there would be a hartal in the north.

This hartal was held. TNA, Tamil People’s National Alliance, All Ceylon Tamil Congress and the Eelam People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front participated.  The police said that despite the Hartal, all government departments and establishments were open and despite a reduction in the number of private busses, the SLTB buses had operated as usual.  Shops in the Vavuniya, Ampara, and Trincomalee remained open. However, some of the schools had closed early due to the absence of teachers and relatively fewer students attended.

Former Member of Parliament M.K.Shivajilingam was arrested by the police in Kopay for organizing an illegal celebration in memory Thileepan. Shivajilingam had sought permission to hold the commemoration ceremony at the Thileepan memorial in Nallur, but the Jaffna police got a court order banning it on the grounds that a leader of a banned organization like the LTTE could not be commemorated and glorified.

 Jaffna magistrate dismissed the argument that Yahapalana government had had allowed the commemoration and   banned the ceremony. However, Shivajilingam secretly changed the venue of the commemoration to Kondavil and performed a ceremony there. He was arrested and was subsequently released on bail.

Shivajilingam was also arrested by the Valvettithurai police over celebrating the birthday of Prabhakaran.  Shivajilingam had been detained almost every year for organizing ‘Mahaviru Day’ to glorify Velupillai Prabhakaran. Shivajilingam though leader of rival organization, TELO,  was related to Prabhakaran.

Mahaveer day was held on the 27th of November every year to commemorate the LTTE cadres who had lost their lives in the conflict. Commemoration had been held continuously for period of over thirty years without interruption. Yahapalana government had allowed it.

There were plans to hold Mahaviru ceremonies in the north, as usual, in November; 2020. Military and police intelligence services reported to Pohottu that plans were underway to hold public gatherings and commemorative meetings across the Northern Province from November 21-27.They wanted court orders prohibiting this. The Pohottu government opposed the celebration of Mahaveer.  

Attorney General’s Department sent officers to make submissions at Mullaitivu, Kilinochchi and Jaffna Magistrates’ Courts to prevent of Mahaviru Day. Courts upheld their submissions and ordered the prohibition    of any form of commemorative events to mark the ‘Maveerar Naal’ or Great Heroes’ Day, on the grounds that they would pose a health risk in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Police had obtained a Court order for 14-days banning all protests and hartals in the North and East in commemoration of any LTTE member. Kopay and Jaffna Police moved motions separately seeking to stop preparations by Tamil political parties and civil society groups in cemeteries where LTTE cadres had been buried. Jaffna Magistrate issued the order.In Mallakam, Chavakachcheri, Trincomalee, Mannar, Vavuniya, Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu and Batticaloa, courts issued similar orders.

Restraining orders have been obtained from the respective Magistrate’s Courts against LTTE commemoration day to prevent celebrating and people who are living in Northern Province had been informed regarding this.

There were petitions against this order. The Jaffna High Court dismissed four petitions filed in the court seeking a writ order to prevent Police and the health authorities stop Mahaviru commemoration.

Attorney General’s Department and Mullaitivu police then filed a motion to get the ban extended. Mullaitivu Magistrate’s Court extended its ban on 46 persons preventing them from holding LTTE commemoration events in Mullaitivu district till 30th of November.

The prohibition was not completely successful, Mahaviru was celebrated.Police arrested   51 persons. Four people were arrested by the Eravur Police for promoting LTTE Mahaviru commemorations through the social media. The respondents’ lawyers said that remembering loved ones who were killed in the separatist war was the basic right of the Tamil people. Some of their own relatives were among those who fought for the Tamil cause.

Senior lawyer N. Srikantha told Court that he had the right to remember one of his close relatives who died in the war and added that dead people could not be considered as members of an organization which was defeated militarily a decade ago.

Nobody raises questions when the JVP remembers its fallen comrades and displays pictures of Rohana Wijeweera in berets. But when the Tamils remember their dead, the issue of terrorism is brought up, complained the Tamils.

Former Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran, MP, said that although the Mahaviru Day” had been banned on a court order. Lamps would be lit in every household in the Jaffna District in their memory.

MP Sarath Weerasekera complained in Parliament that MP Sumanthiran had attended a remembrance service of Pandithar, an LTTE leader. He had gone to the home of Pandithar’s mother, in Valvettithurai, where he lit a lamp to commemorate the fallen LTTE leader.

MP Sumanthiran explained. Sammanthurai Maheswari was one of my clients. I appeared for her in a case at the Jaffna High Court where the learned judge told me that she could  not conduct remembrance in public places but was allowed to remember her son who was killed in 1985 privately at home. I went there on that day and explained to my client the instructions given by the judge.

The dead person was a LTTE leader. He was a killer, said Weerasekera. Yes, he was a member of the LTTE. Nevertheless, he was her son. Every mother has a right to remember her children replied Sumanthiran.

The mother can remember her son there is no problem, but an MP cannot go to such a place, said Weerasekera. Sumanthiran pointed out that JVP was allowed to remember Rohana Wijeweera in the streets of Colombo. LTTE tried to divide the country, JVP did not, replied Weerasekera. The discussion ended with both persons calling each other ‘racists’.

Pro-LTTE activists in the United Kingdom are planning to commemorate ‘Heroes Day’ in honor of their dead cadres on a grand scale announced critics in November 2020.  They have put up posters, flags, banners and cutouts of the slain LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran mostly near Tamil-owned shops in preparation for the annual event.

Despite a strong protest by Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner in London, to the British authorities, pro-LTTE groups in London went ahead with the planned ‘Great Heroes Day’ commemoration on a grand scale.

On the night of November 26, LTTE activists used high-powered laser beams to project on the British Parliament building an image of a flower considered by the terrorist group as their ‘national symbol of Tamil Eelam’ with the words ‘We remember’ underneath it.

On November 29, they hired a hall in East London for the celebrations. The venue was decorated with LTTE flags and garlanded photographs of LTTE fighters killed in the war were placed at the entrance to the hall. Makeshift tombstones draped in LTTE flags and garlands scattered the floor of the hall. However, due to Covid-19 restrictions in the country, only 15 people participated in the commemoration.

LTTE activities have been stepped up in the UK following the open judgment by the Proscribed Organizations Appeals Commission to allow the appeal made by the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam challenging the decision of the UK Secretary of State for Home Affairs to proscribe LTTE. (continued)

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