Sri Lanka: Tamils remember war dead

Heroes' Day commemoration. Jaffna University, November 25.

Tamils throughout the north and east of the island of Sri Lanka have defied police harassment and threats from government ministers to remember those who died fighting for an independent Tamil homeland.

November 27 is Tamil Eelam Heroes Day. In past years, people have been arrested for taking part in commemorative events.

This year, politicians issued warnings to Tamils not to commemorate the day. On November 23, according to a report on Tamilnet, police stormed the student hostels at Jaffna University in the early hours of the morning and warned students against holding commemorations.

This attempt at intimidation failed. The students, anticipating repression on November 27, held their commemoration on November 25 — taking the police by surprise. Students lit candles and put up posters commemorating fallen heroes.

Some Sinhala and Muslim students joined Tamil students in the commemoration. This is significant, given the long history of government-sponsored ethnic division in Sri Lanka.

Similar ceremonies were held throughout the north and east of Sri Lanka. Some were held in Tamil war cemeteries, which had been bulldozed by the Sri Lankan army.

Commemorations were also held by Tamils in the diaspora. An organiser of the Melbourne event told Green Left Weekly that 2000 people attended — more than could fit in the hall.