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Remembering sacrifice

Today, the 27th November, in every corner of the world, Eelam Tamils join together in an act of remembrance. From a Gloriosa lily proudly affixed onto a coat lapel, to the collective events of remembrance held in capitals worldwide, to the daring posters reported in the North-East, today the nation remembers.

For the Eelam nation, there are of course many days of national remembrance and reflection across the year. After all, it should come as no surprise that a nation ravaged by persecution, genocide and armed conflict, is in a state of frequent grief and mourning. Yet today - Maaveerar Naal - is set apart from all other occasions. It remembers not the finality of death, but the solemnity of sacrifice.

In a world post-9/11, ‘sacrifice’ may have become a tainted word to some. However, this blanket scorn ignores the lessons of history. The honouring of sacrifice need not be one of mindless glorification or blood-thirsty terrorism. Throughout the ages the formation and consolidation of each nation is smeared with death and sanctified by sacrifice. It is the mark of any honourable person that they respect the dead, and it is the mark of any civilised nation that it does not forget those who died for it.

The Eelam nation is no different. Like other nations across the world, once a year, in a collective act, woven deep with symbolism, customs and significance, the nation remembers the sacrifices made for it, honours those whose toil served it, and resolves never to forget those whose blood forms it.

Today is that day.

This day of remembrance is not to revere death. There can be no doubt, that the gravity of the nation’s loss is never more poignant, profound, or painful than it is on this day. This day of remembrance is instead to honour the choice made by a remarkable few. That in the face of collective annihilation, aware of the risks involved, young Tamil men and women chose to stand up and fight against it.  It is this courage, determination and selflessness that are able to humble and inspire the whole nation. This is precisely why the nation’s remembrance of its Maaveerar in the homeland is brutally quashed by the Sri Lankan state.

Every act of possible significance, from the tolling of a church bell, to a temple prayer, or the solitary act of lighting a candle is prohibited, and every possible location of significance, systematically destroyed. Yet the nation still remembers - whether it be a large-scale communal act in the diaspora, or a silent moment of thought in the North-East, on the 27th November, the nation remembers.

And so it must.