War Hero’s Day: Sri Lanka Commemorates 14th Anniversary of LTTE’s Defeat and Reflects on the Legacy of Conflict

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Sri Lanka observed the solemn occasion of War Hero’s Day, marking the 14th anniversary of the military’s triumph over the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The LTTE, an insurgent group, had waged a three-decade-long armed conflict in pursuit of a separate homeland for the minority Tamils.

The day began with President Ranil Wickremesinghe, Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, opposition leader Sajith Premadasa, and military officials paying floral tributes to the fallen soldiers. The event, presided over by President Wickremesinghe, witnessed the presence of numerous relatives of the deceased soldiers.

In recognition of their valor, the President’s Office announced the promotion of 402 military officers and 3,348 personnel of other ranks to the next levels. This gesture aimed to acknowledge the sacrifices made by the armed forces during the prolonged and bitterly-fought conflict.

The armed conflict officially came to an end on May 19, 2009, when the body of LTTE supremo Velupillai Prabakaran was discovered in the lagoon of Mullaivaikkal, a northeastern region. The Ministry of Defence revealed that 28,619 soldiers lost their lives while over 27,000 were injured in the battle against the LTTE.

While the armed forces commemorate the victory each year on May 18, it is a day of mourning for Sri Lankan Tamils who lost their loved ones during the final phase of the conflict. In Mullaithivu, the northeastern district where the decisive battle took place, Tamils gathered to remember their fallen and express their grievances. Many Tamils feel that justice has not been served for the victims of the brutal civil war, with allegations of mass killings during the war’s concluding stages.

These allegations prompted the United Nations to release a report suggesting that at least 40,000 Tamil civilians may have been killed in the final months of the conflict. Sri Lanka has faced UN human rights council resolutions since 2013, calling for international investigations into alleged war crimes.

The former President, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who served as the defense secretary during the conflict’s final phase, has been accused of ruthlessly ending the civil war with Prabhakaran’s killing in 2009.

Sri Lanka’s history is marred by unsuccessful negotiations with the Tamil community. The Indian-backed 1987 agreement, which introduced a joint provincial council for the Tamil-dominated regions, failed to satisfy the minority community’s aspirations for full autonomy.

President Wickremesinghe, who assumed office amid economic and political challenges, has emphasized the need to fully implement the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. This amendment would grant political autonomy to the Tamil minority through the devolution of power. India has consistently urged Sri Lanka to implement the 13th Amendment, as outlined in the Indo-Sri Lankan agreement of 1987.

As Sri Lanka commemorates War Hero’s Day, the nation reflects on the triumph over the LTTE and the devastating legacy of the conflict. It serves as a reminder of the need for reconciliation, justice, and the pursuit of lasting peace for all communities in the country.

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