The destruction of the monument at Jaffna University – with weapons sticking out from a hill – sparked protests and threats of a general strike.
The Sri Lankan government has announced that it will rebuild a memorial to Tamil civilians who were killed in the country’s civil war and demolished over the weekend.
The destruction of the monument at Jaffna University – with weapons sticking out of a hill – sparked protests and threats of a general strike in areas where Tamils form the majority.
The government had previously condemned the structure as a memorial to “terrorists,” claiming it glorified Tamil Tiger fighters who were put down in 2009 at the end of a 37-year war.
The memorial was erected by university students on the 10th anniversary of the end of the war and commemorates the thousands of civilians who were killed in the final stages.
Opposition lawmaker Dharmalingam Sithadthan told AFP that the university’s management had ordered the destruction.
“The gates were locked while a bulldozer destroyed the monument inside the university,” said Sithadthan. “The police were deployed outside for protection.”
The action angered students, residents and Tamils in neighboring India.
Minority families have accused the Sinhalese majority government of denying them the right to remember their war dead.
The foundation stone is laid at the demolished site
The foundation stone for a memorial to replace the destroyed Mullivaikkal memorial at the university was laid this Monday morning under the direction of Vice Chancellor & Hunger Strike. Pic.twitter.com/lbNAsQfCJ2 came to an end
– Angajan Ramanathan (@AngajanR) January 11, 2021
Angajan Ramanathan, a ruling party’s lawmaker for Jaffna, said Monday authorities had agreed to rebuild the memorial on the same site.
“The cornerstone … was laid today,” Ramanathan said on Twitter.
Tamil Tigers controlled a third of the island at the height of their power but were crushed in a military offensive when President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was the chief defense officer.
His brother Mahinda, the current Prime Minister, was the president when Sri Lanka overturned the Tiger leadership.
The military success was followed by allegations that up to 40,000 Tamil civilians were killed by security forces in the latest attack, an indictment the government denies.
The Minister for Public Security, Sarath Weerasekera, had previously said that the memorial was a tribute to the tigers and that “no one will or should remember dead terrorists”.