Victory parades & the trouble with this one | world | Hindustan Times
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Victory parades & the trouble with this one

Last week, Colombo put its final seal of military victory over the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Thousands of troops marched through the city to mark the ‘national victory parade’, and hastily assembled cultural groups played out Sinhala stories of bravado and sacrifice, reports Sutirtho Patranobis.

world Updated: Jun 09, 2009 23:17 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

Last week, Colombo put its final seal of military victory over the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Thousands of troops marched through the city to mark the ‘national victory parade’, and hastily assembled cultural groups played out Sinhala stories of bravado and sacrifice.

Ships small and large sailed the seas, and fighter jets screamed 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 MiGs, Israeli Kfirs and Chinese F7s — as they flew past, leaving a trail of trembling window panes in nervous homes in other parts of Colombo.

“This victory parade, with its fanfare and grandeur, betters Colombo’s last victory parade, after the Allied victory at the end of World War 2 in 1945,’’ a Lankan army officer told the Asian Tribune newspaper.

All that nationalistic cheering drowned out some very worrying developments.

Yet another journalist from a government-owned newspaper was picked up and thrashed. A civil society group, the Centre for Policy Alternatives, was threatened and told to wind up its activities.

A leading intellectual was instructed in no uncertain terms to stop writing for foreign publications. The Supreme Court cited lack of evidence while releasing the editor of a Tamil newspaper picked up for links with the LTTE — all of this a parade of travesties under the parade of fanfare and grandeur.

The UN continued to bicker with other rights bodies and newspapers over the civilian death toll, which allegedly crossed the 20,000 mark.

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

What was also unacceptable was reports of groups of youths clashing in the days after the government-declared victory. Members of one community were reportedly harassed, their women teased.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa had to issue a statement about “being magnanimous’’ in victory and announcing “friendship to all’’.

The statement was issued hours after he joined a group in its late night celebrations on a frenzied Colombo street.