The main flame pillar used to commemorate fallen fighters at an LTTE cemetery in Mannar was destroyed last night, in an act of vandalism that comes amidst a crackdown in the Tamil homeland.
The pillar was one of the few structures still left at that Aadkattiveli Thuyilum Illam – or Resting Place – in Mannar. The cemetery, which housed the bodies of hundreds of Tamil fighters, had been razed to the ground by the Sri Lankan military.
A relative of a fallen fighter lights the flame pillar at Aadkattiveli in 2019.
However, local Tamils had made efforts in recent years to gather the rubble of the destroyed tombstones and somewhat rebuild the graves, particularly in the run up to Maaveerar Naal, a day of national remembrance that takes place on November 27th every year.
The latest act of vandalism however comes amidst a crackdown in the North-East, which has seen court orders taken out to ban commemoration events this month.
Though it is not yet known who is responsible for the destruction, locals state that an army camp is located only a few meters away from the entrance to the cemetery.
Former secretary of the Illankai Tamil Arasu Kachchi (ITAK) youth wing and activist V.S. Sivakaran visited the area and told reporters “it is obvious” who was behind the destruction, noting that the Sri Lankan military had been destroying Tamil monuments and graves for years.
He went on to note that the parents of fallen fighters were particularly hurt by the latest damage as they would traditionally be called on to light the flame, but added the Sri Lankan state would not be able to erase the memories of Tamil freedom fighters.