Remembering the war dead! UK & Sri Lanka

_50729364_relatives-of-the-missing 2By Manekshaw

The day after British parliamentary polls ended last week with the announcement of the victory of the Conservative Party led by Prime Minister David Cameron, the Victory Day to mark the 70th anniversary of World War II was observed in London with the participation of all political party leaders who contested at the British polls along with the Royal family members, war veterans and the Commanders of the tri-forces in the UK.
The Victory Day was first declared by Britain’s legendry war time Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill after the victory gained in World War II by Britain and the Allied Forces in 1945.
The death toll in the ruthless World War II had been estimated as 60 million and this number was considered as 3% of the world population in year 1939.
However, the horrific World War II lasted only for six years from 1939 till May 1945 creating enormous death and destruction even bringing changes to the political contours of Europe.
For the past five years Sri Lanka also remembers the war dead a week after the World commemorates the end of World War II in May annually.
Though Sri Lanka was only threatened by Japanese bombardments during World War II on an Easter Sunday in 1942, the Island nation had hardly suffered anything during World War II.
Even when India struggled for its Independence from the British Empire with enormous loss of lives despite the non violent struggle launched by Mahatma Gandhi, Sri Lanka’s journey to freedom was more a ‘cake walk’ compared to the challenges faced by India.
Despite gaining Independence without bloodshed, Lankans had to face immense loss of lives and assets due to the communal upheavals and the insurrection in the South in the early ’70s followed by the Tamil separatist war which had lasted for nearly three decades from the early eighties until May 2009.
The LTTE ,foremost among all Tamil militant outfits in the Island had been commemorating its war dead when it was active in the North and the East until it was totally annihilated in May 2009.
The Tamil militancy began to take shape in full scale following the land mine explosion which had killed 13 soldiers in July 1983. However, the Tamil militant activities gradually started to kickoff following the assassination of Jaffna Mayor Alfred Duraiyappah in 1976.
The surveys carried out on the total loss of lives due to the three decades of war in the Island indicate the death toll as between 80, 000 to 100,000.
In the meantime according to various calculations, it was during the last lap of the war it had the heaviest loss of life numbering nearly 40,000.
Even Norway’s Special Envoy Eric Solheim, in a recent interview with a local newspaper in the Island had admitted that May 2009 had been the most ruthless period of the entire three decades of war in the North and the East of Sri Lanka.
The Norwegian diplomat had also regretted that if the LTTE had cooperated with the peace initiatives taken by his country the enormous loss of lives could have been averted.
Apart from the deaths, the ruthless war had maimed thousands of young men and women and its devastating effects had created orphans and widows in thousands more.
The Rajapaksa regime first began to commemorate the end of war with the Victory Day parade on a massive scale with the participation of all three Armed Forces in May 2010.
The commemoration was more like Rajapaksa regime, blowing its own trumpet on the victory gained due to the immense sacrifices made by thousands of Armed Forces personnel, for its own political gains.
The events which were held in memory of the war dead in the past five years were more in the form of highlighting the military might of the tiny Island and it didn’t take place in the manner of saluting the fallen soldiers.
During the war between India and Pakistan in 1965, an Indian Air Force fighter plane was shot down by Pakistani Forces and the pilot was captured alive with injuries. Later the Pakistani officials recognizing the pilot as the son of Indian Field Marshal K.M. Cariappa had informed him that he would be looked after well.
Responding to the Pakistani officials Field Marshal Cariappa said that he was no more his son; he was the child of India and to treat him equally with other Prisoners of War (PoWs) instead of giving special treatment.
Therefore, the reply sent to the Pakistan officials by Field Marshal Cariappa highlights that the service personnel are the children of the country they belong to.
Several millions of rupees were spent to mark the heavily militarized commemorative event on May in the past five years, whereas the money spent on the commemorative events could have been spent not only on the welfare measures of the families of Security Forces personnel who were killed in action, but also on the families of the service personnel who had faced the war in the North and the East and are still living among ourselves as heroes by safeguarding the integrity of the country.
Suffered immensely
On the other hand Minister and the Cabinet Spokesman, Dr. Rajitha Senaratne had rightly said at the Cabinet news briefing on Thursday said that as the people in the North and the East had suffered immensely in the three decades of war, no one could prevent them from remembering their war dead.
The University of Jaffna being the centre stage for the commemorative events for the war dead in the past five years, the students and the University academics were prevented by Security Forces in the North from staging any commemorative event. Some of the Jaffna students were even taken into custody for attending the commemorative events.
It is clear that the three decades of war had remained the common enemy of all people irrespective of their race, religion and region in the country.
As the new government has a liberal outlook towards commemorating the war dead in May this year, respecting the feelings of the people in the North and the East, it should come forward to make a pledge on this day of remembrance to safeguard the unity, integrity and the dignity of all citizens in the country, keeping in mind the enormous destruction suffered in the past.

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