ERASING THE EELAM VICTORY Part 18C Pt 2
Posted on December 12th, 2020

KAMALIKA PIERIS

The Eelam war was Sri Lanka’s first post- Independence civil war. It was a protracted war conducted by a bogus   ethnic group, created by the British administration, now claiming exclusive rights to valuable coastal territory.

The government of Sri Lanka was a formidable enemy, not only militarily, but legally too.  Sri Lanka, real name Sinhaladvipa, is a recognized sovereign state with clear boundaries, a seat in the UN and a well documented history. The government of Sri Lanka could not be shaken easily. It   fought back and won the war. It was a decisive win. The LTTE formally declared defeat. It was an unconditional surrender.

Journalists have attempted to diminish the victory. The ending of the three-decade long war in Sri Lanka was unusual, journalists said. It resulted from an outright military victory rather than a stalemate or peace treaty. There was no negotiated transition, between the army and the LTTE, just a crushing victory of one side over the other. This is utter nonsense and is probably said for effect. No treaty was needed. It was an illegal occupation.  The land belonged to the government.

Supporters of Tamil Separatism then turned their guns on the   war monuments put up in the north by the government. These war memorials are victory memorials, emphasizing the fact that the government of Sri Lanka won the Eelam war.  So it was necessary to launch a war against the monuments as well.

The monuments were subjected to snide comments and the government of Sri Lanka was criticized for crass monumentalism”. Rising from the flat and otherwise featureless scrubby northern region, the monuments are impossible to miss, foreign journalists said. War monuments, all over the world, are placed where they are impossible to miss.

The monuments project a story that is unashamedly heroic, triumphal and militaristic, said journalists. So what, said critics. They are heroic” because of the heroism of those who fought. 6,261 died and 29,551 of the Sri Lanka armed forces were wounded in Eelam War IV alone. The Eelam war was no picnic.

They are triumphal” because they celebrate the defeat of treason, separatism and illegal occupation of sovereign land.   They are militaristic” because the wars were fought with military weapons and military strategy from the start. The LTTE started with T 56 and later moved to   multi-barrel rocket launchers.

 The victory memorial in Puthukkudiyiruppu was specially singled out for criticism. It was described by journalists as a triumphalist celebration of military victory, that is, death and destruction.” The soldier brandishes an automatic weapon in one hand and the national flag in another. His mouth is open wide as he screams, presumably a cry of victory. There is no subtlety or nuance. 

 Such writings bring up the issue of ethics. The code of ethics of journalists say, inter alia, that journalists must be objective and impartial. These writers are not. These seem to be commissioned pieces, by gullible journalists who believe what they have been told by the Tamil Separatist Movement.

Brigadier Hiran Halangoda wants to see more war monuments. He suggests a granite stone marker as a grim reminder, at the locations in Kiran, Wellawadi, Kallady, Kalwanchikudy and Kalmunai to honor those soldiers who sacrificed their lives there. Then there effort would not have been in vain. We must make similar markers at all such locations so that history will not be erased by unpatriotic elements for their own convenience and hidden agendas, Halangoda said.

Another set of ‘monuments’ also appeared in the rest of the country. Rajika Hettiarachchi pointed out that the country is dotted with bus shelters alongside roads, dedicated to the memory of a dead son, father, or husband, erected by the families and community groups. This is praiseworthy and should receive more recognition. It says something good about the Sinhala Buddhist” culture of Sri Lanka. Most of these bus shelters have gone into disuse said the pro-Eelamists, ungraciously. 

A bus shelter in memory of a father and a ‘Ranaviru’ or war-hero son, built by the family of the deceased. Such family or community-led public memorials are a common sight in the South.  Rajika Hettiarachchi

Writers also looked at two other aspects of the Eelam war, War reporting and War tourism. War reporting is nothing new. The public in Europe followed the progress of World War II, listening to BBC broadcasts and locating the battles on their home maps. Years later, the public in Europe   followed the end of the Vietnam War in the same way.

In the case of Eelam War IV, the information came via television in the daily news broadcasts. Final stages of the war came to the living rooms of most Sri Lanka courtesy of Rupavahini. Government had embedded TV and print media journalists to regularly report on the war from the vantage point allowed by the army.

This reporting was criticized by writers  who supported Eelam. They said  journalists brought in news of the war the way  the audience in the south wanted it, clean, professional, no civilian  casualties. From the comfort of the living rooms they saw the collapse of LTTE bastions one after the other.  They saw LTTE bastions such as Kilinochchi fall as if they were watching great battle movies and became familiar with progression of  specific military thrusts and the names of some military units, such as    57,58, 53, and 55     division became part of the popular discourse.

This  is nonsense. The reporting, made under difficult circumstances was good and  the public watched the progress of the final stage very  intelligently. The public knew what the critical battles were.  The greatest explosion of firecrackers I heard was when Kilinochchi fell, not when the war ended. War reports were not     watched only in living rooms. One person told me that he, together with some others, watched the last stages of the war on the defence.lk  website  while attending a conference in Sweden.

There was jubilation when war ended, said writers. There were wild day and night parties in the streets of Colombo and beyond with crackers, street music, fluttering national flags and the cooking of kiribath in the streets.  This sounds exaggerated.

These writers then went on to say these festivities  drowned the sighing of the people in the battle zone, surviving under  the most difficult  of conditions..  Most Sinhala did not see the pain , death and destruction of the north east .  In the north,  survivors had nothing to celebrate. The dead  LTTE were their own kith and kin. This was not understood by the Sinhala, said writers.

They went further. They speculated  that the Buddhists must feel a  sense of  guilt over the massive destruction that the war had caused. This went against  the Buddhist conscience. However, Buddhists could console themselves that these deaths were due to  a war initiated by the LTTE .     ( continued)

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