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Diaspora Tamils mark Heroes Day

Heroes Day 2005 being marked by Tamils in Switzerland

Diaspora Tamils celebrated Heroes Day on November 27 along with Tamils across their homeland in Northeastern Sri Lanka. At large and small venues across North America, Europe and Australasia, tens of thousands gathered to pay their respects to Tamil Tiger fighters killed in the struggle for independence and to listen to LTTE leader Vellupillai Pirapaharan’s Heroes Day address.

Mr. Pirapaharan’s much anticipated speech is recognized as the movement’s annual policy statement and this year, it was broadcast across the world from the Vanni. The transmission from there by the LTTE-run satellite television, National Television of Tamileelam (NTT) was rebroadcast by other Diaspora run satellite and cable channels.

In the Tamil homeland, events were organized at twenty-five Great Hero cemeteries where 17,903 fighters, both men and women, are laid to rest.

In cities with concentrations of Diaspora Tamils, including Toronto and London (which host the largest expatriate communities), tens of thousand attended Heroes Day celebrations in amphitheatres, clusters of school halls and other venues lavishly decorated in the Tamil national colours of red and yellow.

Galleries of photographs of fallen LTTE fighters, particularly the most famous and those with relations in the local community, allowed visitors to file past, pay their respects and place floral tributes.

At most events, the Tamil national flag, bearing the LTTE’s emblem against red background was raised – but not in Britain, where the LTTE is banned (it is illegal to display the emblem of a banned organization). In the United States, where the LTTE is also banned, the LTTE flag was raised by Tamil Americans alongside the Stars and Stripes.

Mr Anton Balasingham and his wife, Adele, pictured shortly before speaking at Heroes Day 2005 in London

In London, the event was held in two large venues, including the famous Wembley Arena where an estimated ten thousand people filed in to pay their respects to fallen LTTE fighters and listen to Mr. Pirapaharan’s address as well as a speech by Mr. Anton Balasingham, the movement’s political strategist.

Mr. Balasingham's speech was broadcast to the Wembley Arena from the second venue, Alexanda Palace, where he was delivering it to several thousand other people.

The week before, an effort by an anti-LTTE Tamil organization to block the London Heroes Day event through a legal injunction was thrown out by the court they petitioned.

In Toronto, more than 25,000 people gathered in two sessions in the Congress Centre, one of the biggest indoor arena in the city. The Tamil national flower (Karthigai Poo) was distributed to everyone. The leader of ‘Viduthalai Chiruthaikal’ political party in Tamil Nadu participated in the morning commemoration and delivered an address. Representatives from various political parties in Canada also participated and delivered speeches on Sri Lanka’s conflict and the peace process.

There were other events in Ottowa, Cornwall as well as in Quebec for Tamils living these locations.

In Switzerland, thousands of Tamils attended their Heroes Day to pay their respects. The event was addressed by Tamil MP for the Jaffna district, Mr. Gajendran.

In Norway, over three thousand people packed into the Exporama hall in the city of Oslo to celebrate Heroes Day. The Tamil community in Bergen, on other side of Norway to Oslo, also gathered at a local venue. Jaffna district MP, Mr. Krishnan Sivanesan from the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), addressed the event in Olso.

In Sweden, his colleague, Vanni district MP Mr. Kanagaratnam Sathasivam, addressed Tamils gathered in Stockholm city.

In Herning, Denmark, 2,500 Tamil people from Denmark, Holland and Finland, gathered to join the celebrations. Another 500 people attended the event in Sjælland.

Heroes Day was commemorated simultaneously in five places - Gien, Monoco, Renne Strasbourg, Troyes - across France on Sunday.

The tiny Tamil community in southern Italy gathered at Letche on November 27 to join their countrymen across the world in the event. ‘Uthaya Tharahai’ music group performed patriotic songs. The students of Thileepan Tamil School performed patriotic dance and poems.

Tamils in Germany are planning to hold their event in Essen next Monday.

In Australia, Heroes Day celebrations were held in Adelaide (Nov 20), Brisbane (Nov 26) and Melbourne (Dec 3). Tamils in Sydney are to hold their event on December 10.

A bharathanatyam dancer participates in Heroes Day 2005 celebrations in Toronto, Canada

Hundreds of people from the Tamil community in New York attended the event at Queens on November 27. Families of fallen LTTE fighters were honoured with the distribution of ‘Sooriya Puthalvargal’ book.

In New Jersey, four hundred Tamils gathered at the Piscataway High School auditorium on December 4 to mark Heroes Day. Padmini Sithambaranathan, TNA MP from Jaffna addressed the gathering.

She also addressed the event in Dublin, Ohio, where a hundred local Tamils marked Heroes Day on December 4. Amongst the performers was Anita Sivaraman, a renowned Bharatha natyam dancer and grand daughter of the late Tamil Nadu politician, MGR.

World Tamil Coordinating Committee (WTCC-USA) which organised the events is arranging others at more states across USA in the coming weeks.

In South Africa also hundreds of Tamils gathered at Arudpa club in Durban, raising the Tamil Eelam flag and paying floral and candle tributes to fallen fighters, families of whom were amongst those attending.

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