Tamil party protests against ban on celebrating ‘War Heroes’ day

Qadijah Irshad
Filed on November 28, 2013

The government has no authority to ban the commemoration of dead Tamil Tiger rebels, Sri Lanka’s main Tamil party said on Tuesday following an announcement that celebrating the ‘War Heroes’ day is an offence.

On Monday the police announced that it was illegal to gather, protest or demonstrate for the Tamil Tigers’ Heroes Day.

“We strongly oppose moves to prevent families in the North (of Sri Lanka) from commemorating Heroes’ Day on Wednesday,” said the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) parliamentarian Suresh Premachandran.

The TNA argues that there is no existing law in the island that prevents the public from commemorating their dead relatives, children and parents. “The armed forces do not have the authority to implement such laws,” said Premachandran.

However, police spokesman Ajith Rohana said that the ban falls well within the Sri Lankan legal framework. Quoting section 3, subsection 1 of the International Covenant of Political Rights Act of 2007, Rohana said that “no person shall propagate war or advocate national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.”

“This is an existing law, and the Tamil Tigers were a ruthless, brutal terrorist organisation. So if anyone commemorates or glorifies terrorists, it is punishable by law,” said Rohana. The punishment for anyone found celebrating this year’s War Heroes Day will be rigorous imprisonment not exceeding 10 years, according Rohana.

The military too backed a ban on celebrating Tami Tigers’ heroes day after local media reported that low-key events were scheduled this week in the island’s former northern war zone where the TNA won local elections in September.

“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,” said the military spokesman Ruwan Wanigasooriya.

However, the TNA which was once a proxy to the Tamil Tigers said that the Heroes Day is not a commemoration of the Tamil Tigers, but of all those who perished in the three-decade war.

November 26, which coincides with the slain Tiger leader’s birthday and the death of the group’s first fighting cadre in 1982, was observed every year during Velupillai Prabhakaran’s reign of terror when the elusive war-lord would make his rare appearance in public to make his policy speech.

The Tamil Tigers waged guerilla warfare on the Sri Lankan government since 1983. After three decades of terror, they were defeated by the Sri Lankan military in 2009.

Since the defeat of the Tamil Tigers there have been no celebrations of their Heroes Day. Last year the military arrested several Jaffna University students for allegedly attempting to organise November 26 celebrations.

They were later released on President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s orders following representations made by their parents.

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