The sadness and shame, photo via Daily Mirror.
One of my favorite spots in Colombo is the top of Rosmead Place, where Kynsey Road has been painted with doves and flowers in memory of the slain Neelan Thiruchelvam. Neelan worked for peace within a united Sri Lanka and he was killed in an LTTE bomb right there. Now some horrible people have tarred over the memorial. What an offense to his widow and all peace-loving Sri Lankans. She lives down the street.
I wrote about this spot as early as 2004. Then I said “I like it a lot. It’s peaceful. I feel like it’s the right reaction to terror – love”. That people would want to and get away with tarring over a symbol of peace, a memorial to someone’s death, it’s horrifying to me.
Over three nights commencing on August 2, unidentified persons who had reportedly cordoned the area had defaced the mural, and today all that remains over what used to be a symbol of peace are slick coats of tar. It is a disconcerting sight for all those who desire genuine political reconciliation in this deeply divided society.
Mrs. Sithie Tiruchelvam, widow of Dr. Neelan Tiruchelvam, explained that the road painting began 13 years ago, soon after her husband’s assassination. It was not an initiative of any particular institution but a collective effort undertaken by a group of individuals who wanted to find a way of dealing with his death. Most of the people who were involved in the initial stages of the road painting had known him personally, and it was a peaceful way of expressing their grief and honouring him.
Mrs. Tiruchelvam pointed out that for 13 years, even at the height of the armed conflict, the initiative never encountered any opposition. The Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) was regularly informed before the painting took place, and written authorisation had been obtained from the Police when the painting was re-touched prior to his birth and death anniversaries each year. Furthermore, it was done either late at night or very early in the morning to ensure that there would be no disruption to the flow of traffic…
Jayantha Dhanapala was equally perturbed. The former diplomat noted, “The painting of the road at the intersection of Rosmead Place and Kynsey Road has become a traditional commemoration honouring Dr. Neelan Tiruchelvam who was assassinated by the LTTE 13 years ago. To my knowledge it does not contravene any laws of the country or by-laws of the Colombo Municipality unlike election campaign slogans. That unidentified individuals under cover of darkness could deface this painting upholding peace and non-violence with impunity is a sad reflection on the authorities especially the Police. The deafening silence of both the Government and the Mayor of Colombo over this incident adds to the Kafkaesque atmosphere prevailing in our land and the widespread concerns over the rule of law. (Daily Mirror)
Coming after corrupted monks stealing Hindu statues and chasing Muslim mosques out of Dambulla, this is just depressing and wrong. Nobody in charge seems to care, but they should. This is a national shame, that other religions and symbols of peace and hope can be abused with such impunity. I used to always feel such peace passing that spot on Kynsey Road. That someone could give their life for peace, and that his family and friends would continue to give hope out of grieving. It must be repainted, but for now I feel just sad.