(Text of a Statement issued by Jaffna District MP and Tamil National Alliance Spokesperson Mathiaparanan Abraham Sumanthiran PC on the demolition of the memorial monument at the University of Jaffna )
The demolition of the memorial monument in the University of Jaffna is an act of savagery that cannot be condoned by any right thinking person. To say that it is an unauthorised structure and therefore ought to have been broken down, is to further accentuate this barbarism. War memorials do not need local authority permission. Or else all the war memorials that have been constructed in the North-East by the military must be brought down. There are numerous such structures in Kilinochchi, Elephant Pass, Puthukudiyirupu and several more in Mullaitivu. It is true that a few thousand soldiers were killed in this war and they must be remembered; but what about the scores of innocent civilians who died? Then there is the other side. What about remembering them too?
Memorialization creates a common and dedicated space for communities to come together to mourn and remember those they lost in the war. That space has special meaning for the people. They view it as a place where they can bond with others who have experienced similar suffering and find empathy and support.
Memorials are also living history lessons that allow society to teach their young about the causes and consequences of war and impress upon them the need to ensure that ethnic strife needs to be resolved soon so as not to escalate to armed conflict. This is the significance of this monument being built in the University of Jaffna, apart from the fact that it is to remember those from the University community itself who died in the war.
A war monument, when erected, becomes a sacred place to remember the dead. That is why its wanton destruction spontaneously evoked a surge of emotions. We are thankful to all who expressed disgust and condemned this act, including Mr Doug Ford, Premier of Ontario, Mr Tariq Ahamed, UK Minister of State for South Asia and the Commonwealth, many political leaders in Tamil Nadu and Muslim and Sinhala political leaders in Sri Lanka.
We have our reservations on the apparent “settlement” of this issue. The Vice-Chancellor was overheard saying that he was asked by the government to “diffuse” the situation because Tamil Nadu political leaders have protested!
If the laying of the foundation stones is only a ploy to diffuse the situation and not the result of repentance for the wrong done, then it is worse than the original offense of destroying the monument. We insist that all those responsible for the destruction of the monument apologize unreservedly and that it be reconstructed immediately.
M. A. Sumanthiran
Tamil National Alliance
(Thanks to Ambika Satkunanathan’s contribution in the Groundviews)