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Colombo bans commemoration of Tamil rebels’ slain leader

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka has banned public commemorations of Tamil Tiger rebels ahead of the fifth anniversary of rebel supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran’s killing which marked the end of the war, a military spokesman said Sunday.
Brigadier Ruwan Wanigasooriya said public events to commemorate Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels killed in the final battle of the decades-long separatist war were barred as the organization remained outlawed.
“Individuals may have religious services to commemorate their loved ones killed in the fighting, but there cannot be any public events,” Wanigasooriya told AFP.
“Display of LTTE flags or insignia will also not be allowed,” he added. Sri Lankan forces killed Prabhakaran on May 18, 2009 and declared an end to 37 years of armed conflict, which the UN estimates claimed at least 100,000 lives. Rights groups have said that up to 40,000 civilians perished in the final months of fighting alone in the island’s northern coastal district of Mullaittivu where the rebels put up a final stand.
The government’s latest ban on Tiger commemorations follows military claims that rebel remnants were trying to regroup and rearm to renew their campaign for a separate homeland for the ethnic Tamil minority.
Human rights groups have accused Colombo of trying to whip up fears of a Tiger resurgence to justify draconian anti-militant laws and to maintain a large military presence in the former war zone.
The military last month shot dead three Tamil men accused of trying to revive the LTTE in the island’s north.
There had been no major attacks blamed on Tamil Tigers since their defeat in 2009, but Sri Lanka’s navy said it found the largest stock of buried LTTE pistol ammunition in Mullaittivu on Friday.