Colombo (AsiaNews) – Despite some restrictions, for the first time Sri Lankan Tamils were able to remember their loved ones who died during the Civil War.
On 18 May 2009, Velupillai Prabhakaran, founder and leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), was killed by a special unit of the Sri Lankan Armed Forces. His death brought to an end 30 years of ethnic conflict.
During those many years, Tamil civilians paid the heaviest price in the country’s northern and eastern provinces. Even today, they complain of discrimination by the authorities and the absence of a genuine process of reconciliation.
This year, President Maithripala Sirisena allowed local communities to commemorate their dead on Remembrance Day (18 May), which marks the end of the war against the Tamil Tigers.
Under the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Tamils were not allowed to commemorate their dead on the ground that it would be condoning terrorists.
The day the war ended was known as "Victory Day". The new government changed it to Remembrance Day out of respect for the pain of all the victims, irrespective of their ethnic background.
For some war widows, who talked to AsiaNews, this is “a consolation that soothes a bit the pain even though reconciliation is still difficult."
In Mullivaikkal, an interfaith service was held, followed by Mass. Saravanamuttu Manimekala, a 30-year-old Catholic woman with three children aged 10, 8 and 7 years, spoke to AsiaNews.
Her husband died before her eyes, killed by a bomb attack at their church in Walayamadam. She also lost her parents. Today, she has to do odd jobs to support her children and send them to school.
"For the first time, we had a chance to cry in freedom for our loved ones and this made us happy. However, our pain cannot yet lessen. We need a political solution to the Tamil problem. Only when it is found can we really start again, even if the suffering will never go away."
Indeed, "So many times I thought about suicide but the thought of my children kept me alive,” Manimekala said. “I want to go forward for them, to make them good human beings."
Suharthi Krishnagopal, 50, also lost her husband own in the final stages of the conflict. Now she is alone, with her two children, in charge of a small shop in the same house where she lives.
For her, Remembrance Day was "a moment of great consolation and comfort. We know that our loved ones will never come back, but it is important to remember them."
The same goes for Chandrasekaran, a Catholic man. Speaking to AsiaNews, he remembered his wife and two children. "We had a good life,” he said. “Then we experienced terrible destruction. I keep wondering why God saved only me, and I try to understand what my place in the world is".