‘If only they would respect Tamils as humans’
An alleged former combatant who was ‘rehabilitated’
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), is the armed group that the Mahinda Rajapaksa and Gotabaya Rajapaksa government claim they defeated in May 2009. During the first Rajapaksa regime and after the Rajapaksas returned to power in 2019, even in the midst of the pandemic, their government has held annual events to celebrate its victory over the LTTE, which it always proudly states it destroyed. At the same time, even in 2021, 11 years after the end of the armed conflict, it is the Rajapaksa regime that has kept the LTTE very much alive in public discourse. It appears unwilling or unable to let the LTTE go, perhaps because it needs to revive the spectre of the LTTE to remind people of its greatness, and reiterate that only the Rajapaksas can protect the people and the country.
Paradoxically, while preventing Tamils from commemorating the war dead, the government does a good job of ensuring the public and the Tamil people do not forget the LTTE. As I have written elsewhere, many former cadres have said that at government rehabilitation centres that they were instructed to forget the past. Yet, constant interrogation by the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) and surveillance and monitoring of ex-cadres forced them to remember their past. Some cadres said ‘they asked us to forget the past but… they continue to ask us about our time in the LTTE’
It is the Rajapaksa government that has erected monuments that conjure images of war, violence and celebrate militarism, in the form of statues of soldiers, guns, armoured tanks and bullets that one sees dotted all over the North