Symbols of war commemorated
By Wilson Gnanadass in Kilinochchi
(Courtesy: Sunday leader-December 01.2002)
"Sindhiya raththam podumada, oru eelaththaye kattiyeluppa"
(The blood that is shed is sufficient to build a Tamil nation) was one of the phrases from
a song that continued to echo in the Kilinochchi area right throughout "Heroes'
Day" which fell on November 27.
The songs were all composed by local artistes and they were played
through the loudspeakers at every junction. "Nengil eriyum nerupputhan, oru
eelaththaye uruwakkum" (The fire that burns in our hearts is the force that creates
Eelam) was another phrase from a song.
of the most important events in the calendar of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
(LTTE) is the Maveerar Thinam (Heroes' Day). The sacrificial act of every fighter by
laying his/her own life during a confrontation for the sake of Tamil Eelam is recognised
and remembered by the living comrades. Such an act of devotion is considered to be the
supreme act in the 20 year old Eelam war.
cadre is ever honoured more than a person who has given his/her life for the cause of achieving self determination
and self rule, and therefore Heroes' Day has become a part of the life of the people of
the north and east.
dead fighter's photo is displayed in public. The people garland the photos and pay their
respects with utmost reverence. "Because of them, we are able to live in peace
today," they say.
year's Maveerar Thinam became even more significant because of the ongoing peace process
initiated by the United National Front (UNF) government. Amidst their busy schedule,
residents of Kilinochchi however did not fail to laud Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe,
who they say could be a force to reckon with, and usher in a new era of peace in the
Towns, villages and even the remotest hamlets in the north and east held by both government forces and the LTTE were all gaily decorated with yellow and red flags and cut-outs depicting the Tamil liberation struggle observing the final day of 'Maaveerar Thinam.
Celebrations in Jaffna, Batticaloa, Vavuniya and Mannar were held in a grand scale - much more than it was expected.
For the first time since the signing of the ceasefire agreement, unarmed police personnel had been deployed to maintain law and order in this cosmopolitan town of Kilinochchi. Shops were closed. Only the eating houses and tea kiosks were allowed to carry out business to cater to the large number of people who were thronging the war cemetery from all quarters.
Several hundreds of people including students congregated in the war cemetery, which is called the "Martyrs Resting Home" to pay homage to the graves of their sons, brothers, fathers, sisters and their relatives who were buried there. In other places people also flocked to the special rooms that were made with photographs of 'Maveerar' (Heroes) that were on display.
entire function was colourful and emotional. It was heartbreaking to see relatives of the
dead garlanding the monuments and then stretching themselves on top of the graves and
crying, remembering their lost ones. Some even fell prostrate to show their highest
respect for the dead fighters.
event at Kilinochchi was quite a colourful one. The area leaders hoisted the Tiger flags
that came into being only in 1990. The Sunday Leader was witness to a small ceremony that
took place at the office of Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO) in the morning of
November 27. Deputy Executive Director, TRO, Iniyawan hoisted the Tiger flag. Then a few
minutes of silence was observed as a mark of respect for the fallen heroes. Lighting of
the oil lamps in the room where the photos of the dead were on display and garlanding
their photographs followed. LTTE's Political Wing Leader and a key negotiator in the
ongoing peace talks, S.P. Thamilchelvan, and Pulidevan who happened to arrive there, stood
motionless when the Tiger anthem was played.
The environment in Kilinochchi was sombre. An eerie feeling prevailed in the area with people going in large numbers to the war cemeteries at Viswamadu in Mullaitivu and Kanagapuram in Kilinochchi.
songs played through the loudspeakers were sorrowful - all speaking of the commitment of
the fallen heroes. Some mothers, fathers, sons and sisters of the Maveerar were seen clad
in white. It was a moment of great sadness but it was also coupled with joy. "I am
sad my son is no more, but I am glad he gave his life for this cause," a mother from
Wattakachchi who was seen sobbing over her son's grave at Viswamadu, observed.
Most of the children of the dead heroes were clad in camouflage. Relatives from Trincomalee, Ampara and Batticaloa travelled to Kilinochchi to pay their respects to the dead. They told The Sunday Leader that this is the first time that they were able to use their liberty to travel from such far destinations in order to pay their respects. "Previously, we could not do this, due to the war situation," they explained.
main event at Kilinochchi took place at Kanagapuram war cemetery under Theepan's
leadership. The cemetery was adorned with flowers. Tigers were smartly clad in their
ceremonial uniforms. More than 30,000 people thronged the cemetery to participate in the
main ceremony. At 5.46 p.m. (LTTE time) LTTE Chief Velupillai Prabhakaran delivered his
speech - dubbed the "throne speech" by the people. Almost all gathered at the
cemetery stood to 'attention' until the entire speech was completed. The speech lasted
only 20 minutes, which was followed by lighting of the main torch by Col. Theepan, the
northern military commander. This was followed by the relatives lighting the torches
attached to each monument.
LTTE has been celebrating the Maveerar Thinam since November 27, 1989. The day November 27
was specifically chosen by the Tigers as the first ever Tiger Lieutenant to be killed in
the Eelam war, Shankar Sathiyanathan was killed on this day in the year 1982. He was
killed in action on November 27, in 1982, following a confrontation with the Sri Lanka
Army in Velvetithurai (VVT). This day became important in the diary of the LTTE because he
was the first ever Tiger to lay down his life for the sake of Tamil Eelam.
that day onwards the LTTE has been remembering the dead with reverence and honour. The
dead are considered as 'seeds' that would grow again to give more fruit to achieve their
principal cause. This is why every Maveerar is not cremated but buried - contrary to the
Hindu tradition of cremating the dead. They are instead laid to rest in the Martyrs' Homes
built for them. "We say that the dead heroes are seeds and are sown to grow again.
They are neither buried nor cremated," LTTE cadres explained.
The LTTE has taken untiring efforts to remember all 17,651 including 251 Black Tiger cadres who sacrificed their lives in the Eelam war. In addition they build a home for their souls to rest as well.
Tigers claim that they have led a few successful military operations against the Sri
Lankan armed forces. They pride themselves in capturing a large quantity of arms and
ammunition and other equipment necessary to fight a war. The first South African built
armoured car was snatched from the Sri Lanka Army by the LTTE in 1990 during a
confrontation in Kondachchi, Mannar. The LTTE also captured Mullaitivu army camp in 1996
during the "Unceasing Wave 1" operation while taking over Kilinochchi in 1998 in
operation "Unceasing Wave II." The LTTE also annexed some other areas that were
under the control of the armed forces in the following year.
LTTE believes that without the support and the commitment of the Tiger cadres who are not
living in this world any more, it would not have been possible to achieve this target.
to statistics provided by the LTTE, the highest number of male cadres killed in the Eelam
war was in 1997 during the "Jayasikurui" operation. Approximately 2106 cadres
have been killed, while in the same confrontation some 507 female cadres, which is also
the highest, were also killed.
the highest tribute to the dead is a bounden duty of every army. It is deplorable that the
government has not set aside a day to remember the dead soldiers. The soldiers too, it
must be mentioned have sacrificed their life to safeguard the sovereignty of the country.
According to official figures 14, 101 Sri Lankan soldiers have been killed since 1983. In
addition some 2542 soldiers are still missing in action. But so far, successful
governments have neither earmarked a day to salute the dead soldiers nor have had plans to
do so even in the future, though remembering the soldiers who died in the Second World
first Heroes' Day celebration took place in 1989, November 27.
Shankar Sathiyanathan was the first male hero to have been
killed in action on November 27, 1982.
Lt. Malathi was the first female heroine to be killed in action on October 10, 1987. She
was killed in Koppai during a confron-tation with the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF).
Captain Angayarkanni was the first female black Tiger to lay down her life.
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LTTE hierarchy believes it is fitting to give supreme honour to every soldier either
before or after death.
story is a clear manifestation of a fighter's honest commitment to the cause the Tigers
have been fighting for.
is a 23 year old Tiger. He has participated in several military operations and one
difficult fight he remembers is the Elephant Pass attack, where the LTTE over-run the
entire camp killing most of the army personnel.
says along with him some female cadres were also fighting. While the fighting was on, a
female cadre was hit and started bleeding profusely. And another colleague senior to Jegan
had requested Jegen to carry the wounded female soldier to the makeshift camp for
were fighting a fierce battle. But I could not resist the orders from my senior colleague.
So I placed the wounded cadre on my shoulder and walked up to the room where the wounded
were being treated. Until I reached the room, the female soldier was alive. But the moment
I laid her on the mat, she breathed her last ," he said while sobbing.
went on to explain the most painful part of this saga. He said only after placing the
combatant on the ground did he realise that the war heroine who departed from this world
after valiantly fighting was his own younger sister.
"Then I told the officers there that it was my own sister and I asked them to do the final rites according to the military requirement and went back to fighting as there was a lack of combatants to fight the battle. In fact, this incident further encouraged me to fight until the end. And that is the day we over-ran the entire camp," he told The Sunday Leader.
* * * * * *
The toll so far
1991 1405 208 1613
1995 1217 288 1505
1996 1092 285 1377
1997 1599 507 2106
1998 1150 648 1798
1999 1052 493 1545
2000 1237 743 1980
2001 489 270 759
M - Males, F - Females