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Escalating repression of Maaveerar remembrance met with Tamil defiance

Published 22:39 GMT

The Sri Lankan government's heightened repression of any acts of remembrance commemorating fallen LTTE cadre, in the run up to this year's Maaveerar Naal (Heroes' Day) on November 27th, has been met with Tamil defiance.

The Sri Lankan government and military's clamp down on remembrance events in the run up to  Maaveerar Naal this year has been particularly severe, coming only days after Sri Lanka received a battering in the international spotlight over its treatment of Tamils, and weeks after prolific and undiminished Tamil nationalism was evidenced at the polls.

The head of the University of Jaffna's teacher's union, E. Raasakumaaran, was interrogated by officials from the Terrorism Investigation Department (TID) today. Mr Raasakumaaran, who was taken to the police station at 3pm, was allowed to leave at 7pm, reports TamilWin.

The incident comes as reports emerge of a heightened military presence surrounding the University of Jaffna. The presence of military personnel drove local residents to return home and lock the doors by 6pm today.

Meanwhile, what is widely considered to be a calculated move to disrupt the organisation of remembrance events, the Jaffna University - an enduring crucible of Tamil resistance against the Sri Lankan state which once again became a focal point of the struggle over the right to remember Maaveerar Naal last year - remains closed to students, with teaching suspended till December, despite other universities across the island due to re-open on November 18th.

The military presence follows yesterday's attack on the homes of Tamils elected into local councils in Karaveddi South-West and Valvettithurai (the ancestral home of the LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran), after the councils held remembrance events.

Photograph Lankawin

The increasing violence appears only to have fueled Tamil defiance.

Speaking in parliament today, the TNA MP, S. Sritharan said that the Tamil people in the North-East had voted for the TNA as a sign of support for the ideals of the LTTE leader Vellupillai Prabhakaran.

Asserting that the Tamil people had a right to commemorate the Tamil cadres that lost their lives in the ethnic conflict, Mr Sritharan said, "tomorrow, each Tamil, will think of the Maaveerar from morning till dusk."

"Each Tamil has the right to honour them and lay a flower for them. How just is it to prevent this right?" questioned Mr Sritharan, adding, "Maaveerar Naal is an auspicious day for the Tamils... a day when those that sacrificed their lives for the liberation of Tamils are remembered... Repressing or prohibiting this auspicious day for the Tamils, will only increase the scars in the minds of Tamils."

Listing a handful of the numerous names of LTTE cadre who remain disappeared after surrendering to the Sri Lankan military during the final stages of the armed conflict, Mr Sritharan condemned what he said was the "structural genocide" taking place in the North-East and emphasised the Tamil nation's right to remember their martyrs, saying:

“Tamils do not deny that Tamil national leader Prabhakaran is still revered, but the Sri Lankan state depicts him as a terrorist. In truth, Tamil people see him as the greatest leader in history, who awoke the previously dormant defiance of the Tamils… they see him as a symbol of the irrepressible struggle against the subjugation of our race,”

“The Tamil people have the right to honour anyone who has fought for their freedom,”

“The Sri Lankan government continues on its path of crushing oppression. If our people had any faith in the government to solve their problems, that faith is disappearing.”

As has become customary at this time of year, since the defeat of the LTTE, the toiling of church or temple bells, and the lighting of candles or lamps have been prohibited by the Sri Lankan military.

Sri Lankan soldiers have been seen systematically destroying Gloriosa lilies or 'kaarthigai poo' in the Vanni area, reports the Uthayan newspaper. The flower was named the national flower of Tamil Eelam by the LTTE and has come to symbolise the act of remembrance on Maaveerar Naal, as does a red poppy in the West.

Yet, the Tamil youth remain undeterred. Effectively confined to their homes, Tamil youth in the North-East have taken their remembrance online, changing their profile pictures on social media accounts to photographs of lamps and candles.

Remarkably the Tamil defiance comes as an absolute ban on any activities that commemorate Tamil fighters had been announced by the Sri Lankan military's spokesperson earlier this week.

In a clear warning, Brigadier Ruwan Wanigasooriya had said, 

"Promoting and propagating separatist ideology within Sri Lanka directly or indirectly, even by using media freedom, and attempting to commemorate or glorify terrorists that belonged to a proscribed organisation would be illegal.

As dawn approaches in the North-East on this year's Maaveerar Naal, four years after the defeat of the LTTE, the Sri Lankan state's escalating repression of the Tamil right to remember, is being met with Tamil resolve to defy.