Maaveerar Naal commemorations commenced despite tensions in Mullaitivu, following the assault of a journalist and the arrest of another prominent Tamil activist, with a range of remembrance activities take place across the district.
Flowers were scattered at Nandikadal lagoon at sunrise by ormer Northern Provincial Councillor T. Ravikaran amidst Sri Lankan military presence.
Special prayers were also held at Vatrapalai Amman temple in Mullaitivu, to honour the lives lost in the struggle for liberation.
Later in the day, following the assault of journalist Vishvalingham Vishvachandran, Sri Lankan police officers arrested ITAK youth member Peter Ilancheliyan, after they manhandled both him and his wife as they attempted to hold commemorations at Mullaitivu Beach.
Despite his wife’s pleas, police officers snatched Ilancheliyan and detained him as dozens of soldiers and police officers watched on.
Armed soldiers continued to patrol the area on motorbikes, whilst other troops photographed the 100 or so Tamils that had gathered there to mark Maaveerar Naal. Despite the blatant intimidation and earlier arrest, the Tamils went on to light a flame at the beach to pay their respects to the martyrs of the armed struggle. Ilancheliyan’s wife, who herself is the elder sister of a fallen cadre, stayed to be amongst them.
Commemoration events were also held at some of the destroyed LTTE cemeteries known as Thuyilum Illam, or Resting Places, despite a heavy Sri Lankan military presence.
Locals gathered at the Iraddaivaaikkal Thuyilum Illam and lit flames before destroyed tombstones of fallen cadres.
Locals also gathered at the Vannivilankulam Thuyilum Illam, where Sri Lankan security officers reportedly intimidated mourners.
Locals also held private commemorations in homes across the district.
Earlier in the week Mullaitivu magistrate’s court revoked its ban on Maaveerar Naal and injunctions placed on dozens of Tamil politicians and civil society members, stating that the need to remember the dead was a fact of human nature.
Magistrate T. Saravanabavan amended the court’s earlier judgement which had granted Mullaitivu police’s applications for bans on commemorations, and 72 individual injunctions against politicians, activists and community leaders.
Despite the revoking of the ban, armed military personnel stepped up their presence across the district to block any commemoration activities from taking place.
In addition to the harassment on the day, the Sri Lankan military reportedly called traders in Mullaitivu and threatened them to open their outlets. The day before, soldiers disrupted services at the St Joseph Church in Koolamurippu, blocking entry to the shrine and telling worshippers and the priests to move the service to another day because it could not be held today.
The harassment faced by Tamils took place across the region on Maaveerar Naal, but despite the intimidation many came out to commemorate fighters of the Tamil liberation struggle.