Tribute for Sri Lanka’s civil war victims despite barriers (photos)
For Tamils, 18 May is Mullivaikkal Remembrance Day; for the military, it is War Heroes Day. Various interfaith and multiethnic ceremonies are held across the country. A court bans commemorations in Mullivaikkal for two weeks.
Colombo (AsiaNews) – Ceremonies have been held across Sri Lanka to mark the eighth anniversary of the end of the civil war that tore apart the island nation for almost thirty years.
However, observances were held amid tensions caused by a court injunction against a commemorative service at Nandikadal Lagoon, Mullivaikkal, in the northern district of Mullaithivu, a place carved in the memory of survivors because of a last massacre of Tamils at the end of the conflict in 2009.
Survivors gathered yesterday, 18 May, for Mass a St Paul’s Catholic Church. Fr Elil Rajan SJ, one of the organisers, was summoned today before the police. For Sri Lankan Tamils, 18 May is the Mullivaikkal Remembrance Day; for the Sri Lankan military, it is the War Heroes Day.
Across the country, the relatives of the thousands of victims, along with Catholic and Protestant clergymen, ordinary Sinhalese and Tamils, remembered those who died in the bloody conflict that pitted the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) against the Sri Lankan Armed Forces.
Interfaith and multiethnic ceremonies took place at various venues with the participation of Christians and Hindus. Religious services were held at St Luke Anglican Church in Tharumapuram (Kilinochchi district), Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church in Uruthirapuram (Kilinochchi), Eastern University in Trincomalee where students held a blood drive after the function, and Jaffna University where students observed three minutes of silence. The Federation of Civil Society Organisations also held a meeting in Mannar with victim’s relatives and members of the Christian and Hindu clergy.
As for the Mullivaikkal ceremony, a court issued an order (AR 422/17) to prevent celebrations at the local church for 14 days. The site is known because Tamil Tigers leader Velupillai Prabhakaran was killed there on 19 May 2009. After his death, then President Mahinda Rajapaksa announced the end of hostilities, gaining great public support despite his dictatorial methods.
The court order was preceded by a statement from the Deputy Minister of Defense, who complained of the presence of "some elements trying to tarnish the reputation of the security forces by lighting lamps while enjoying the freedom reinstated in this country because of the efforts of security forces who sacrificed their life and limb to do so.”
Conducted in Tamil and celebrated by both Sinhalese and Tamil priests, the Mass in St Paul’s Church brought together a large crowd. Sister Rasika, one of the present, told AsiaNews that "the function was offered for the souls of those who were killed during the war so that they may rest in peace."
After the liturgy, participants gathered in front of three memorial stones on which are engraved the names of the victims of the final stages of the conflict. They lit lamps and observed a moment of silence.
Today Fr Elil had to respond to the court for his action, considered a violation of the country’s peace and security, since some of the names on the stones could belong to Tamil Tiger rebels.
Foto credit - Garikaalan e Marisa de Silva