By Mirudhula Thambiah
It was a week of remembrance for the people in the North- East as they gathered to mourn for former LTTE Political Commander for Jaffna , Thileepan.
Students, Politcos, Civil Society Members and the public met at different places in the North and East to commemorate the 31st Death Anniversary of Thileepan who died during a fast-unto- death protest in Nallur, Jaffna.
Despite resistance by various other parties, the Jaffna Municipal Council organized a massive event at the Thileepan monument in Nallur on 26 September. This event was held under the leadership of Jaffna Mayor, Emmanuel Arnold. Hundreds of people gathered for the memorial event near the monument to pay floral tribute and lit the commemoration lamp. The Hindu ritual ‘Kavadi’ was also observed while mourning for Thileepan.
Being the main commemoration event organized at the heart of Jaffna, Ilankai Tamil ArasuKatchi Leader, Mavai Senathiraja and leaders of Tamil National People’s Front participated.
The Thileepan monument in Nallur was constructed at the exact spot where he began his hunger protest demanding the Indian Government to adhere to the promises made to the Tamil people.
Students and staff at the Jaffna University too held a commemoration event for Thileepan within the university premises. Hundreds from the university gathered at the memorial.
They lit candles and paid floral tribute during his famous speech was played. This speech was delivered during the hunger protest carried out by him where he set out demands to the Indian Government in favour of the Tamil people’s grievances in 1987.
Families of missing persons and slain LTTE cadres also gathered. Councillors from the Northern Provincial Council, Local Councils and Tamil National Alliance gathered to commemorate the 31st Death Anniversary of Thileepan in Kilinochchi.
This event was organized at the Kilinochchi Kandasamy Temple. They gathered at the temple in the early morning and held a hunger protest until 10.45am on 26 September in memory of the fast-unto-death protest of Thileepan. He died at 10.45am on the 12th day of the protest. Northern Provincial Councillor T. Kurukularaja also participated.
The commemoration in Mullaitivu was held at the office of Provincial Councillor Thurairajah Raviharan in Kallapadu. Families of missing persons also held a commemoration event in Puthukudiyiruppu and Ananthapuram. Similar events were held in Point Pedro.
Meanwhile, Eastern University Students also mourned for Thileepan on 27 September evening in Batticaloa by lighting lamps and paying tribute to him.
Events were also organized at Thandiyadi Martyrs’ Cemetery and Paduvankarai in the East, which was organized by Crusaders for Democracy led by rehabilitated LTTE cadres. Residents, families of missing persons and families of slain LTTE cadres participated at the event.
On 23 September marking the ninth day of Thileepan’s hunger protest, a blood donation camp was organized in Jaffna.
On 21 September, the police filed an injunction to ban the commemoration event for Thileepan. The police pointed out that it was a commemoration of a member of a terrorist organization which is banned in Sri Lanka. The police urged to remove red and yellow banners displayed at the Thileepan monument in Nallur.
However, the Jaffna Magistrate rejected the police request on 25 September. During the hearing Jaffna Municipal Councillor, S. Jeyaseelan was summoned and was represented by Parliamentarian M.A. Sumanthiran and a team of lawyers.
The application for the injunction was rejected by Jaffna Magistrate Sinnathurai Satheeskaran who held that the commemoration events could proceed.
Thileepan alias Rasiah Parthiban, was the political leader of LTTE for the Jaffna Peninsula. Following an injury in his stomach during the Vadamarachchi Operations in May 1987 he became the political leader of the organization for Jaffna.
Inspired by Mahatma Gandhi, on 13 September 1987, Thileepan began his fast-unto-death protest making five demands.
They were that all Tamil Prevention of Terrorism Act detainees should be released, Colonization of Sinhalese in Tamil areas under the name of resettlement should be stopped, all such activities should be stopped until an interim government is formed, urged to stop the opening of new police stations and camps in the North and East and that the Army and Police should withdraw arms and withdraw from schools and colleges.
These demands were put forward to the Indian Government rather than the Sri Lankan Government.
He gave 24-hours for the Indian Government to respond to these demands but no response came from the Indian Government. Following which he began the hunger protest in front of the Nallur Kandaswamy Temple where Thileepan gave speeches during his 12-day protest.
As his health deteriorated after refusing food or water, Thileepan died on 26 September 1987, where his monument is currently built in Nallur. After the funeral ceremony, according to the rituals of the LTTE, the body was handed over to the Jaffna University Medical Faculty.
The Thileepan monument was built in 1996 in Nallur and faced phases of destruction and damage during the war. Currently attempts were made by Provincial Council authorities and the Municipal authorities to reconstruct the monument. On 14 September, representatives cleaned the monument and the vicinity to commemorate Thileepan’s 31st death anniversary.