COLOMBO: North Sri Lankan Tamils on Sunday observed Great Heroes’ Day (Maaveerar Naal) in memory of cadres of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) who had laid down their lives for the cause of establishing an independent Tamil Eelam.
Northern Provincial Council members M.K.Shivajilingam and Ananthy Sasitharan, and provincial Agriculture Minister P.Aingaranesan were among many who gathered at the Thileepan memorial in Nallur, Jaffna, to pay homage to the dead fighters.
Thileepan had fasted unto death to force India to side with the LTTE in its confrontation with the Sri Lankan government in 1987. He is hailed as “Thyagi Thileepan” and touted as the non-violent face of the LTTE’s struggle. A Thayaga Sudar or Torch of Sacrifice was lit. A blood donation camp was also organized.
Shivajilingam said that Heroes’ Day observance is meant to remember not just the dead of the LTTE but all the dead of all militant groups, including those who had lost their lives in internecine warfare. He put the total number of dead in the armed struggle at 50,000.
The provincial councilor who is related to Prabhakaran but belongs to a rival group said that observance of the Heroes’ Day symbolizes the continuing struggle for a just political solution to the Tamil question. Those who oppose the observance lose the right to speak on behalf of the Tamils he said.
The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MP.E.Saravanapavan lit the torch at a former graveyard (Thuyilum Illam) for LTTE cadre in one of the islands off Jaffna. Similar observances were held in other parts of the Northern Province like the districts of the Wanni which had borne the brunt of the last phase of Eelam War IV.
To mark LTTE chief Prabhakaran’s birth anniversary (November 26) students and faculty of Jaffna University lit candles and planted tree saplings in the campus. A memorial service was held in which the object of veneration was a picture of the flower Gloriosa Lily (Karthigai Poo) which is deemed the national flower of Tamil Eelam.
In contrast to the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime, the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government allowed the observance of Heroes’ Day without getting the police and army to disrupt it. Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera and Cabinet Spokesman Rajitha Senaratne had both said that it is the right of the Tamils to commemorate their dead.
To make it acceptable to the powers-that-be in Colombo, the observances generally avoided references to Prabhakaran or the display of his pictures. Everywhere it was a solemn occasion to remember the dead by observing silence, lighting torches and candles, planting trees and donating blood.