South Asia

Sri Lanka builds army HQ on Tamil Tiger cemetery

Image of the Tiger graveyard from the pro-rebel website Tamilnet
Image caption Tamil nationalists have criticised the destruction of the graveyard

A new military headquarters in northern Sri Lanka has been built on the site of a Tamil Tiger graveyard earlier flattened by the army, it has emerged.

The construction has come in for sharp criticism.

The army says it was allocated the plot as government land and that it was unaware of "unhappiness" over the site.

The Tamil Tigers departed from Hindu traditions of cremation and built large graveyards which experts say was part of a cult of martyrdom.

In May 2009 government forces defeated Tamil Tiger rebels fighting for a separate homeland. More than 70,000 people are estimated to have died in Sri Lanka's civil war which lasted for 26 years.

The army website has a full illustrated account of Friday's opening of the new headquarters for the 51 Division near Jaffna.

The website said it was declared open "amidst religious rites and rituals".

But it did not mention that on the same spot there used to stand a cemetery built by Tamil Tiger militants but destroyed by the army last year.

Tamil nationalists have already criticised the destruction of other Tiger graveyards in past years.

A former MP, MK Shivajilingam, said he was shocked because there were about 2,000 bodies of Tiger fighters on the site and there had been twice that number of memorial stones.

"How can the government build national reconciliation like this?" he said.

But army chief Jagath Jayasuriya told the BBC that having vacated its temporary premises in a Jaffna hotel, the 51 Division had to move to government land.

He said the military had been allocated this site which was owned by the prisons department, and he was "not aware of people expressing unhappiness".

Last year the government demolished the ancestral house of the late Tamil Tiger leader, Prabhakaran.

It says its policy is to wipe out any trace of the Tigers and ensure that their violence is forgotten.

It has however built several memorials to fallen government soldiers.

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