Today is a strange anniversary. It’s like a birth and a death.
On this day Vellupilai Prabhakaran was killed, ending nearly 30 years of a terrorism in Sri Lanka. He took thousands of civilian hostages to try and save his cause but it didn’t work.
The Sri Lankan military eliminated him and the LTTE while suffering great losses. Contrary to accusations of genocide, the military sacrificed dearly to preserve civilian lives. Up to a point. The objective was always eliminating the LTTE and civilian deaths were considered proportional. A lot of deaths. A lot of suffering. Under international law, you can clearly assert proportionality, but that doesn’t make it any less tragic.
I didn’t pay the bill and neither, probably, did you. Other people died in the heat and the dirt, soldiers and civilians alike. They paid the bill for years of national dysfunction, which is why I think it’s fitting to call this a Remembrance Day rather than a Victory Day. Because really, victory over what? Ourselves?
May 2009 is a bit close to be history.
History can say this happened for that reason, or was part of this trend, or that one, and everything worked out better in the end. But 2009 isn’t history just yet. We’re still writing that.
Under Mahinda, the government tried to make this day a triumphal one. This was hard to swallow because of all the people that died, all the Sri Lankans that died. It was also hard to swallow because Mahinda wanted to use the war to build himself up and enrich his family. He wanted political spoils, which was a bit gross. President Sirisena, on the other hand, is a generational leader who is making real strides to win the peace. He respects the troops that sacrificed, but also the citizens. And he’s not building a political dynasty upon their graves.
Today doesn’t mark a triumph or a tragedy. It marks the ending of something bad. Whether it marks the start of something good is still up to us.