Thousands of Tamils in Northern Sri Lanka observed the 10th anniversary of the brutal civil war between the government and LTTE by lighting oil lamps and remembering those who lost their lives in the over three-decade-long conflict.
Tamils gathered at Vellamullivaikkal, the scene of the final battle on May 18, 2009 when the government forces killed Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) chief Velupillai Prabhakaran, bringing to an end the bloody armed conflict fought mainly in the north and east of the island nation.
At least 100,000 people were killed in the conflict. Thousands of people, including security personnel, are still reported to be missing after the war.
According to the Army, 27,000 soldiers were lost in the war.
The anniversary falls nearly a month after Easter Sunday bombings, the worst terror attack in the country that killed 258 people and injured over 500 others.
The event saw attendance from people of all age groups. A child who lost her mother during the war lit an oil lamp to start the programme.
“We would like to declare today as the Awakening Day of Tamil Nation against genocide and we declare year 2019 is a year to heighten the international support for political justice and campaign against genocide,” Mullivaikkal Remembrance Forum, an organisation voicing the concern of Tamils, said during the event.
They vowed to strengthen the call to refer Sri Lanka to the International Crimes Court for alleged war crimes committed during the war with the LTTE.
The government gained victory over the LTTE which had been fighting for a separate state for nearly three decades.
The Tamils alleged that thousands were massacred during the final battle, while the Lankan Army denies the charge, claiming it as a humanitarian operation to rid the Tamils of LTTE’s control.
Students of the Jaffna University also held a commemoration ceremony at the institution’s premises and stressed on the need for justice for Tamils in the country.
The government will commemorate the war heroes during the Victory Day celebrations on Sunday, the Ministry of Defence said in a statement.
President Maithripala Sirisena will preside over the programme.
“To coincide with the “Dasavarshikabhisheka” commemoration, it is requested from the general public to light a ‘Lamp of Peace’ at all places of worship, state and private sector organizations, homes, police stations and tri-forces establishments island-wide on 2019.05.19 at 1900hrs,” it said.
However, human rights organisations blamed the government of failing to provide justice to the victims even after a decade after the war, the Colombo Gazette reported.
The Amnesty International called on the government to end impunity and put accountability for crimes under international law and human rights violations and abuses at the heart of its transitional justice process.
“It is worrying to see the recurrence of hostility and violence against ethnic and religious minorities in Sri Lanka. While the government has committed itself to a process of reconciliation, the wounds of the past will only heal if there is justice, truth and reparation,” Biraj Patnaik, South Asia Director at Amnesty International, said.
The Human Rights Watch said that the end of the war provided the country with an opportunity not only to rebuild shattered lives and society, but also to restore respect for rights and the rule of law.
“Yet successive Sri Lankan administrations have frittered away this opportunity, failing to investigate atrocities by both sides, hold those responsible for the worst crimes accountable, or provide truth and reparations to the victims,” Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said.