Ethnic Tamil leaders on Moonday called for a day of mourning for civilians killed during Sri Lanka's 25-year civil war, as the government prepare to celebrate the one-year anniversary of its victory over Tamil Tiger rebels.
Sri Lanka's conflict ended in May 2009 after a massive military operation against the Tigers in their stronghold in the country's north.
According to UN documents at least 7,000 civilians were killed in the last five months of the war. An estimated 80,000-100,000 people died during a quarter-century of fighting.
A Tamil political party urged Tamil people today to mourn and hold silent prayers on May 17 to mark what it called a day of "catastrophe" after the rebels were routed on the battlefield and senior leaders killed.
"During the height of the war several thousand Tamil people were killed and hundreds of thousand others suffered heavy losses and were forced to flee their homes," said the Tamil National Alliance, the largest political party representing Tamils.
"This catastrophe is one of the worst in world history," the party said in a statement.
The government, meanwhile, announced a week of celebrations to honour soldiers starting Wednesday, including a victory parade in the capital Colombo on May 20. During "war heroes' week," the army also plans to hold religious ceremonies and raise funds to help disabled soldiers, a government statement said.
The government said last week, it will establish a commission to investigate alleged human rights abuses during the war.
Government troops were accused of shelling a small strip of land where hundreds of thousands of people were boxed-in during the last stages of the conflict.
The rebels were also accused of killing noncombatants trying to leave the area under their control, and firing artillery from civilian-populated regions that led to retaliatory military fire.
Nearly 300,000 people were left homeless after the final assault ended on May 18, 2009 with the death of the rebel group's chief, Velupillai Prabhakaran, and all senior guerrilla leaders.
About 100,000 refugees remain in government-run camps.
Tens of thousands of others were sent back to their villages or live with relatives and friends.