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Tuesday September 28th, 2021
Defence

Parents of Sri Lanka’s ex-Tiger combatants should be allowed to grieve: retd army officer

Photo by Indi Samarajiva/Flickr

ECONOMYNEXT – Parents of Tamil Tiger combatants should be allowed to commemorate their children who died in Sri Lanka’s 26-year war, Lt Gen (Retd) Jagath Dias said in a discussion aired on the privately owned Derana Network yesterday (18).

Dias, who commanded the 57th Division of the Sri Lanka Army in the final phase of the war, said a majority of the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE) cadres were forcibly conscripted fellow Sri Lankans who were led astray by wrongful ideology.

“It was our misled children, our misled brothers and sisters that were born in this country. They went astray and joined terrorist leaders to divide the country. They fought us face to face and got wounded or killed. They belonged to this country,” said Dias.

Memorialising former LTTE cadres has been a contentious issue in Sri Lanka. A memorial plaque for Tamils killed in the war was found vandalised in the northern Mullaitivu district on May 13, The Hindu reported that day. An Army spokesman told The Hindu that it was possible that a third party had vandalised the structure to cause disharmony. In January this  year, The Hindu further reported, the University of Jaffna bulldozed a two-year-old memorial built in the name of civilian casualties, which was subsequently rebuilt following student protests and pressure from India.

Yesterday (18) marked 12 years since the end of the war.

Lt Gen (Rtd) Dias said though one becomes a terrorist through wrong ideology, all mothers feel the same grief. However, he warned, separatist political forces might use it to their advantage.

“The way I see it, instead of allowing it to be used politically, we must have a national mechanism to allow them to commemorate their children. Of the killed or wounded terrorists, about 95% didn’t join willingly. They were forcibly conscripted and trained. We found evidence for this in the form of notes and such in bunkers,” said Dias.

“There are some Tamil political parties – not all – that are opportunistic and are trying to benefit from this. We must put a stop to that. We must give the parents the strength and the courage needed. We should give them the opportunity to light a lamp with dignity in celebration of their son or daughter,” he said.

The retired military officer further said that Tamil civilians in the north coexist peacefully with Army troops stationed there.

“If you go to a Tamil village in Kilonochci, Pudukudirippu or Pooneryn where we have camps, they coexist with our troops. In an emergency, they get the ambulance from the camp. If they need a generator or water bowser or even food or anything else, it’s the camp that they go to. Even though things are normal in the north and government services are there, in an emergency, they go to the camp and speak to the officers there,” he said.

“Why? Because there is a level of trust there. What has gotten in the way of that trust is separatist politics controlled by the separatist diaspora,” he added.

The influence of the separatist diaspora is felt by civilian families back home in northern Sri Lanka, said Dias.

“That’s where we must intervene,” he said. (Colombo/May18/2021)

Link to Derana interview: https://www.facebook.com/chaturaAalwis/posts/300735228274898

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