COLOMBO: Former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who hopes to romp back to power in the coming parliamentary elections on a Sinhalese-nationalist wave, will be celebrating May 18, the day on which LTTE Supremo Prabhakaran was killed, as “War Heroes’ Day.”
Rajapaksa’s rally to be held at Colombo’s Viharamahadevi Park is noteworthy in the context of President Maithripala Sirisena’s decision to observe May 19 as “Remembrance Day” to honor all Lankans, soldiers and civilians, irrespective of ethnicity, who had sacrificed their life or limb for the sake of the unity and integrity of the country. During the Rajapaksa regime, May 19 was celebrated as “Victory Day” marked by a military spectacle.
Additionally, Rajapaksa’s rally coincides with the Tamils’ “Mourning Day” to commemorate the death of LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran and the killing of thousands of other Tamils in the final, brutal phase of Eelam War IV at Wellamullivaikkal in Mullaitivu district in May 2009.
The Rajapaksa rally is meant to hype the heroism of the Lankan armed forces. But the Sirisena rally is expected to be a somber affair, although its center piece will be a military parade as it is also a Ranaviru Smaranaya (War Heroes’ Memorial).
Rajapaksa has accused Sirisena of dancing to the tune of the Tamil Diaspora and changing the character of the “Victory Day”. Rajapaksa’s followers are to observe the week from May 18 as Victory Week.
In the island’s North and East, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) will unofficially observe May 18 as the “Day of Mourning and Prayer”. But a radical section is planning to observe the day as “Anti-Genocide Day”.
The Sirisena government has allowed the mourning of the dead, but commemoration of the LTTE, a banned organization, will not be tolerated. To prevent radicals from creating a scene at Wellamulliwaikkal, government has banned all memorial functions in Mullaitivu district.
This time round, the Tamil Diaspora is backing Sirisena. The Global Tamil Forum’s President, Fr.S.J.Emmanuel, has hailed Sirisena as an “emerging statesman” and British Tamil Forum’s Suren Surendiran has described Sirisena’s approach as being “breathtakingly fresh”.