Lankan Tamils come out of their shell to observe LTTE’s Heroes’ Day

Lankan Tamils come out of their shell to observe LTTE’s Heroes’ Day

Colombo, November 28 ( For the  first time since the end of the war in 2009, Tamils of Sri Lanka’s Northern and Eastern Provinces observed on a very large scale, Heroes’ Day or Maaveerar Naal  in memory of the dead cadres of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

On November 27, designated by the LTTE Supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran as Heroes’ Day to commemorate his dead cadres, thousands of Tamils, not just the families of the dead, gathered at numerous public places to perform traditional memorial rituals.

Special rituals were conducted in Hindu temples and churches. Ornate memorial torches were lit at many places. Wherever the LTTE’s cemeteries existed earlier, people lit lamps at representations of graves and prayed in silence.

Yellow and saffron flags representative of Sri Lankan Tamils were hoisted and propaganda songs of the LTTE blared from loud  speakers. Though posters hailing the LTTE Supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran were pasted on walls in several places, the “Tiger flag” of the LTTE was conspicuously absent.

Distinguishing Features   

There were two distinguishing features of this year’s Maaveerar Naal observances. One was that this time, the organization was not in the hands of politicians. They had been coming under flak for using  the occasion only to further their narrow political interests. The  organizers this time round were non-political people, students and the families of the dead cadres.

Father of a dead LTTE cadre worshiping at the representation of his son’s grave

The second distinguishing feature was the freedom with which people observed the occasion, which earlier had been treated by the Sri Lankan government as anti-national act and banned. Sri Lankan troops ,who are deployed in large numbers in the Northern Province were conspicuously absent. The police were there but only to control the unprecedented traffic on the roads.

Under the liberal regime of President Mathripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, the Tamil people are able to mourn the war dead and even extol them as “heroes” instead of suppressing their sentiments. They could not do this when the Sinhalese nationalist, Mahinda Rajapaksa, was in power between 2005 and December 2014.

“The Tamils have realized their strength, their power. They have awakened,” said the Northern Province Chief Minister C.V.Wigneswaran in a statement issued on Tuesday.

While recognizing the change in the political climate in Sri Lanka for the better after the advent of the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe regime in January 2015, Wigneswaran said that the Tamil people are coming out now to express themselves also because they fear that if they do not express themselves in forceful ways now they may not secure their rights.

The bold observance of Maaveerar Naal is a display of their commitment to the cause which they had not abandoned just because the LTTE was defeated in war, Wigneswaran said.

He further said that the Tamil people fear that the present day Tamil leaders could betray them politically and settle for less. The high profile observance of the Maaveerar Naal is meant to convey to the Tamil leaders in no uncertain terms that they cannot abandon the Tamil cause for crumbs thrown by the powers-that-be in Colombo, the Chief Minister said.

(The featured image at the top shows Jaffna University Students lighting candles on Heroes’ Day)