Mullivaikkal Remembrance Day in Sri Lanka Date in the current year: May 18, 2024

Mullivaikkal Remembrance Day in Sri Lanka On May 18 every year, Sri Lankan Tamils observe Mullivaikkal Remembrance Day, also known as simply Mullivaikkal Day. It honors the memory of those who died during the final months of the Sri Lankan Civil War that was fought from 1983 to 2009.

The Sri Lankan Civil War was fought between Tamil insurgents led by the militant organization named the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (the LTTE), who wanted to create an independent Tamil state on the island of Sri Lanka, and the government of Sri Lanka.

The final months of the war, from December 2008 to May 2009, witnessed particularly brutal confrontation between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan military. About 300,000 civilians were trapped between the two warring parties, unable to escape to safety. According to a UN report, about 40,000 of them were killed in the final months of war.

A particularly bloody battle, known as the Mullivaikkal massacre or War without Witnesses, took place in May 2009 in Mullativu district. A tiny strip of land in Mullivaikkal was shelled by the government forces despite being designated as a no fire zone. Thousands of Tamils were killed in the massacre, most of them by the Sri Lankan military, but some fell victim to the Tamil Tigers’ counterfire.

The Sri Lankan Civil War ended on May 18, following the capture and death of the LLTE’s founder and leader Velupillai Prabhakaran. To honor the memory of those who died in the war, especially civilian casualties, Sri Lankan Tamils unofficially observe Mullivaikkal Remembrance Day.

Interestingly, Sri Lanka also has an official holiday commemorating the war dead, named Remembrance Day (formerly known as Victory Day). It is observed on May 18 or 19 to honor the memory of both military personnel and civilians who died in the war. Remembrance Day events include military parades and speeches held throughout the country.

At the same time, Sri Lankan Tamils are not allowed to observe Mullivaikkal Day publicly , since the government has banned commemorations for the LTTE. Even though Tamils dedicate their remembrance ceremonies to deceased civilians, the Sri Lankan government treats them as though they commemorate the LLTE and arrest those who participate in public commemorations. As a result, Tamils are not permitted to mourn their war dead publicly.

Despite the restrictions, Sri Lankan Tamils hold commemorative events in private. Besides, public ceremonies in honor of Mullivaikkal Remembrance Day are held in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, which is mostly populated by Tamils, and amongst the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora around the globe, for example, in Canada, the UK, France, Germany, Switzerland, Malaysia, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, and other countries with a significant Sri Lankan Tamil population.

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