The destruction of a monument at the University of Jaffna – depicting weapons coming out of a mound – has sparked protests and threats of a general strike.
The Sri Lankan government has said it will rebuild a memorial to Tamil civilians killed in the country’s civil war which was demolished over the weekend.
The destruction of the Jaffna University monument – depicting weapons coming out of a mound – has sparked protests and threats of a general strike in areas where Tamils are in the majority.
The government had previously condemned the structure as a memorial to “terrorists”, saying it glorified Tamil Tiger fighters who were crushed in 2009 at the end of a 37-year war.
The memorial was erected by university students to mark the 10th anniversary of the end of the war and to commemorate the thousands of civilians killed in the later stages.
Opposition lawmaker Dharmalingam Sithadthan told AFP news agency that the university leadership ordered its destruction.
“The doors were locked while a bulldozer demolished the memorial inside the university,” Sithadthan said. “The police have been deployed outside to protect themselves.”
The action angered students and residents as well as Tamils in neighboring India.
Minority Tamils have accused the Sinhala-majority government of denying them the right to remember their war dead.
The first stone is being laid on the demolished site.
The foundation stone for a memorial to replace the demolished Mullivaikkal memorial at the university was laid today Monday morning, led by the Vice-Chancellor and the hunger strike has ended pic.twitter.com/lbNAsQfCJ2
– Angajan Ramanathan (@AngajanR) January 11, 2021
Angajan Ramanathan, a ruling party lawmaker in Jaffna, said on Monday that authorities had agreed to rebuild the monument in the same location.
“The cornerstone… has been laid today,” Ramanathan said on Twitter.
The 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 primarily responsible for the defense.
His brother Mahinda, the current Prime Minister, was the president when Sri Lanka annihilated the Tiger leadership.
The military success was followed by allegations that as many as 40,000 Tamil civilians were killed by security forces in the final attack, a charge the government denies.
Public Security Minister Sarath Weerasekera had said earlier that the monument was a tribute to the Tigers and that “no one can and should be allowed to commemorate dead terrorists.”