The Unsung Heroes
Posted on July 26th, 2023

By Shivanthi ranasinghe Courtesy Ceylon Today

 

The successful campaign by the LTTE ideologists to promote a false narrative in the West must not be ignored. This spells a serious  issue for Sri Lanka as this narrative is peddled by some of the prominent politicians in the West. 

The LTTE propaganda – A time bomb

It is noteworthy that these politicians, for reasons of their own, are latching on to this narrative, despite holding reliable evidence that resolutely negates this blasphemy. These reasons have nothing to do with any of the communities in Sri Lanka. It is not even out of sympathy for the LTTE ideologists that these politicians support this narrative. 

Though Sri Lankan authorities believe that this maybe to further their own vote banks, there is very little evidence to support this theory. After all, both main parties equally support the LTTE narrative. Instead of entertaining grand conspiracy theories, it might serve us better to study the effect this narrative, largely unchallenged by Sri Lanka, has had on
Sri Lanka. 

The most obvious outcome is that it has kept the LTTE cause alive. After the Easter Sunday attacks and the anarchy movement of 2022, it is clear that terrorism has been redefined. It no longer needs an organisational structure, nor any weapons. By presenting as an unarmed protester, it is now possible to render as much or even more damage as a conventional terrorist. Therefore, having these falsehoods propagated and floating around with the sanction of renowned personalities is a threat to our national security. 

Remembering only the fallen soldier 

When the war against terrorism ended in 2009 and the terrorist organisation completely decimated, the then Government of Mahinda Rajapaksa was keen to keep the past in the past. The effort of that Government was to move forward. A key step in this endeavour was to erase all traces of this dark period. 

For a while, Prabakaran’s 40-foot hole in the ground, where he used to hide when battles raged above and his massive pool that he used to relax in, were exhibited to the public. However, that too was completely erased afterwards. Today, there are no monuments from that era. 

The one or two that is present now have been built by the LTTE sympathisers much later. These had been possible due to the weak and opportunistic political will. 

The only reminders of the long 30-year protracted war are the memorials built to commemorate the fallen soldiers. This include the memorial built for the lost lives of the IPKF. It is noteworthy that such a memorial does not exist even in India. 

What About the Unsung Heroes? 

Curiously though, the forest lands, where over 700 Policemen and officers were killed by the terrorists, remains an unmarked killing field. This massacre took place in 1990. 

It was one of the worst catastrophes we suffered during the terrorist era. This only took place because the then ill advised Ranasinghe Premadasa Government ordered the Police personnel in the Eastern Province to surrender to the LTTE instead of sending reinforcements to take control of the situation. Both, the then Government and the IGP ,disregarded the protests of the senior officers on site. 

When the Police personnel were brutally murdered instead of being ‘escorted out of the province’, the then Government quickly shoved the matter under the proverbial carpet and acted as if no such tragedy had taken place. Shockingly, none of the successive governments had acknowledged this disaster either. 

Today, except for a handful of nationalists who lived through these dark times, no one talks of the LTTE atrocities or how terrible life was at the time. Consequently, the present generations only hear the false propaganda promoted by LTTE ideologists and other vested interest groups. 

When moving forward was the effort, dwelling in past hurts was seen counterproductive. One could argue that this was not the portrayed ethnic conflict. After all, at the hands of the LTTE, the Tamils in the North and East suffered much more than any other community in the country. As such, these Tamils also wanted the LTTE defeated. 

The best visual evidence is in the last days of the conflict. The LTTE was under siege and their only trump card was the civilian hostages. The very fact that they had to force them at gunpoint to remain with them speaks volumes of the ordinary Tamil civilians’ sentiment at that point. 

It is noteworthy that in the Tamil cultural values, betrayal is an unforgivable offense. Yet, the Tamil civilians refused to stay loyal to the LTTE. Finally, braving the LTTE bullets, the entire hostage group ran towards the advancing Army to take refuge from the LTTE. 

Notwithstanding these harrowing experiences, Prabhakaran remains a hero to a large Tamil population in the North and East. This is because he stood up to an oppressive social system based on caste. This aspect of the LTTE is hardly discussed. As such, this is still a contentious issue in these two provinces – especially in the North. 

As Prabhakaran is seen as a hero to many, the then Mahinda Rajapaksa Government might have thought that it is best not to speak of the LTTE atrocities. Highlighting these dark truths would have been seen as driving a wedge between communities. 

Whether this sensitivity by the then Government should be appreciated is a question before us. Instead of allowing the conditions that made Prabhakaran a hero to many, the Government should bring in policies that nullify these conditions. Simultaneously, the Sri Lankan Government cannot allow our country to be vilified by a false narrative. 

The most pressing issue resulting from this silence is the failure to acknowledge the trials of the ordinary citizen who faced the LTTE atrocities. The stories of how these citizens tried to stand up to the terrorists is truly heart rendering. 

Fathers trying to hold the flimsy door with their bare backs to prevent terrorists from storming into his home to kill his family are one too many. Just because these fathers were not in uniform does not make them less of a hero. They may have not chosen to face or fight the terrorists, but that does not negate their bravery. 

It was their gruesome fate that alerted the country the LTTE’s true nature and depravity. It was what stopped the LTTE sympathisers from fully and overtly justifying the LTTE’s agenda. It was what strengthened the nation’s resolve to never give into the terrorists. Therefore, those who lost their lives to terrorists too deserve to have their name carved with pride and gratitude for their heroism. 

Recently, the first memorial stone was laid by the citizens of the Eastern Province. On 23.6.2023, a memorial stone with nearly 200 names was erected. These names belonged to the unsung heroes who met a horrific end in the LTTE’s act of ethnic cleansing of Muslim and Sinhala communities. The Government must take a step further and memorialise their stories so that neither the present nor the future generations would take the peace we have today for granted. 

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