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Troops march the `national victory parade’

Last week, Colombo put the final seal of military victory over the LTTE. Thousands of troops marched through the city to mark the `national victory parade’ as hastily put together cultural groups played out Sinhala stories of bravado and sacrifice, reports Sutirtho Patranobis.

world Updated: Jun 09, 2009 12:52 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

Last week, Colombo put the final seal of military victory over the LTTE. Thousands of troops marched through the city to mark the `national victory parade’ as hastily put together cultural groups played out Sinhala stories of bravado and sacrifice. Small and big ships sailed the seas and fighter jets roared across the skies in triumphant sorties.

Below, from roofs and balconies, citizens cheered and waved. Executives and saleswomen hurried to the streets to catch a glimpse of the fighter jets – Russian-made MiGs, made-in-Israel Kfirs and Chinese F7s -- as they flew past, leaving a trail of trembling window panes in nervous homes in other parts of Colombo.

The grandeur of the parade could have seemed a little uneven to some. ``This victory parade with so much fanfare and grandeur out beats the last victory parade held in Colombo after the conquest of the allied forces at the end of world war two in 1945,’’ a Lankan army officer told the Asian Tribune newspaper.

All the nationalistic cheering – which must have been in order after the army wiped out LTTE – drowned some very worrying developments.

Another journalist from a government-owned newspaper was picked up and thrashed. A leading a civil society group, the Centre for Policy Alternatives, was threatened to wound up its activities. A leading intellectual, a rather mild-mannered gentleman, was instructed in not very uncertain terms to stop writing for foreign publications.

The SC cited lack of evidence to release the editor of a Tamil newspaper who was picked up for links with the LTTE; these certainly do not seem to be part of any parade other then that of travesty.

The United Nations too continued to bicker with other rights bodies and newspapers over the civilian death toll, which allegedly crossed the 20000 mark.

``I categorically reject -- repeat categorically -- any suggestion that the United Nations has deliberately underestimated any figures," Ban Ki-moon told the UN General Assembly, quickly adding ``whatever the total, the casualties in the conflict were unacceptably high -- as I have also said repeatedly.’’

What was also unacceptable were reports of groups of youth clashing in the days after the government declared victory. There were reports of members of one community being harassed, their women being teased. President Mahinda Rajapaksa had to issue a statement about being ``magnanimous’’ in victory and ``friendship to all’’. The statement was issued hours after he joined a group in its late night celebrations on a frenzied Colombo street.