15 August, 2020

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Another Example Of Army Rule In Jaffna

By Laksiri Fernando

Dr Laksiri Fernando

November has been an eventful month, not very good omen for the Rajapaksa regime. First it was their rush for the impeachment against the Chief Justice, with much resistance emerging from the legal fraternity and the public. Then came the brutal killing of 27 inmates at the Welikada Prison; a blatant murder than anything else. The month ended by the military and the police desperately attacking the students at the University of Jaffna who were engaged in peaceful activities; revealing to the whole world that the minority Tamils are still under the military yoke.
The three human rights issues emerged were (1) the independence of the judiciary, (2) security of the persons under state custody and (3) the rights of minorities to dissent and protest peacefully.
Who can now believe that the military did not indulge in war crimes during the last stages of the war?

Grieving for the Dead 

Maarveerar (in Tamil) or Mahaviru (in Sinhala) celebrations have been common events in Sri Lanka for the last three decades or so both in the South and in the North, commemorating different heroes of the LTTE and the JVP, however much they were misled ideologically or they misled the others on a destructive path. Only time and wise policies will sort out these matters, taking the young away from violent and destructive political causes.

By mere coincidence, both celebrations fall in the month of November. The JVP celebrated their heroes’ day on the 13th November in Colombo and in many other places (including Japan!). There were no army or police interventions. It is true that the LTTE, in contrast, is a proscribed organization in Sri Lanka and in many other countries. But their political party, the Peoples’ Front of Liberation Tigers (PFLT) was a registered organization until last year and the name was taken out from the registered list because of its failure to submit annual reports.

Maarveerar Day is not only about ‘heroes.’ It is also about the dead and the deceased. It is a day of moaning and in the case of the Tamils in recent times there are thousands and thousands of innocent civilians who had to ‘sacrifice their lives’ to defeat the LTTE by the army. They were in fact killed because of inhuman military strategy. The Tamils cannot be blamed to consider the SL army as the Sinhala army. There is no other day of moaning left for them to grieve about their loved ones – fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, sisters and brothers and not to speak of other relatives or friends.
November is also the month of ‘all saints and all souls’ for the Christians and it was reported from Jaffna that the police and army secret services were poking their noses into church activities and sermons to see whether there were any semblance of moaning for the dead of the last stages of the war. Many Christian priests were extremely nervous of this poisoned atmosphere.

Maarveerar day this year, 27 November, also coincided with the Hindu Tamil celebration of Karthigai Deepam when the devotees light oil lamps to dispel three impurities of “egoism, selfish action and delusion.’ Particularly among the young, the ‘sisters supposed to pray for their brothers’ wellbeing and the brothers in turn promise to safeguard the sisters in times of trouble.” I am quoting from a reliable website. It is said that this is what was going on between the Ananda Kumaraswami women’s hostel and the Balasingham men’s hostel at the Jaffna University possibly also with a political overtone when the army intervened. There were undoubtedly oil lamps that were lit. The Lord Shiva is supposed to appear in the form of flame to dispel evil.

Events in the Campus 

E Saravanapavan, a Member of Parliament (MP) of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) for the Jaffna District has given an eyewitness report on some of the events of what happened at the Jaffna Campus on 27 and 28 November (dbsjeyaraj.com, 30 November 2012). There is no denial of the fact that there were efforts to commemorate the Maarveerar Day in Jaffna and particularly at the University. As he says, however, “It is customary for people to pay their respect to the deceased on such days. This salutation offered to their blood brothers, relations and parents has been mercilessly suppressed by the forces.” He particularly notes that throughout the previous week the army in civilian clothes has been operating in the Campus threatening the students against any activity.

On that particular day of 27th Tuesday, the army has entered the campus in civilian clothes but equipped with arms and again threatened the students of any possible lighting of oil lamps. By the night fall they have cordoned off particularly two hostels and the police also had arrived. They have locked the boys in the Balasingham hall and occupied the top floor. No student was allowed to go out. This is partly reminiscent of what happened in the Welikada Prison on the 9th of November. The information soon spread and MP Saravanapavan arrived at the scene.

As he says, “We travelled through Ramanathan Street and approached Ananda Kumarasamy hostel. We saw several army & police vehicles parked in front of this hostel in the railway street. .. At that time I noted the army personnel entering the Boys hostel and threatening the students. Immediately, I travelled through Brown Street and reached Balasingham hostel. I saw the campus security there along with two police offices. I got down from my vehicle and inquired as to what happened. Then they said they were not in a position to do anything.”

He further says, “At that time I saw a large number of army personnel running from the hostel towards the entrance with sticks and guns in hand and proceeded angrily to the Ladies Hostel. Then I too ran in the same direction and on my way I saw Jaffna HQI Sam Sigora standing there.” The MP says there were men in motor cycles their faces covered with masks.
If there had been any unlawful or suspicious activity, it was a matter for the police to handle but not the army. Apart from the police, there is campus security that could handle any disturbance and that was apparently not the case. There are no ‘Emergency Regulations’ operating in the country, at least not by law and therefore any army intervention in civilian matters is illegal and arbitrary. What is apparent in particularly Jaffna is undeclared army rule without any law to govern the army behaviour.

Student Protests 

The following day on the 28th there had been student protests against the previous day incidents. There were reports that women undergraduates were threatened with guns and they were insulted. The students were requesting explanations from the university authorities. The MP relates the following:

“In fact the students, wearing pieces of black fabric around their mouths and holding slogans were sitting very peacefully at the University entrance. They condemned the army for their mean act of breaking the Girls hostel doors and entering it and demanded an explanation from the university authorities. Thereafter they proceeded in a peaceful march, from the Science faculty towards the University entrance, without disturbing the general traffic.”

It was at this point the riot police had attacked the student demonstrators on the orders of the Jaffna HQI. MP again reports that

“Followed by this attack, a large number of army personnel who were at the scene too started attacking the students with their guns and kicking with their boots. As a result, 07 students got severely injured and more than 10 got minor injuries. This includes the girl students and the media personnel who went to collect news.”

There had been altercations between the MP and the HQI when the MP tried to intervene on behalf of the arrested students. At least five were arrested and then released under intervention. It was during these altercations that the army officer had intervened and the MPs report says the following.

“At that point, an army officer standing close by insulted me very badly. I asked the HQI as to how and why army gets involved in a civil matter that should be dealt by the police and what right army officer has to question a Member of Parliament like me. Then, the army officer exploded in a threatening tone that he could show his power and whether to show it to me now.”

Although the MP was not physically attacked his official vehicle was attacked and all glasses were smashed. Even thereafter that particular army officer had threatened the MP. There are claims these days that the ‘Parliament is Supreme’ to mean even the members are also supreme. Perhaps this is only for the Sinhala ones but not for the Tamil MPs judging by the behaviour of the army and the police during the above incident. Perhaps the army is more supreme than even the Parliament or their MPs.

If a behaviour of an army officer was such during a so-called peace time and three and half years after the end of the war, one could imagine how they would have behaved during the last stages of the war.

Attack on the Uthayan Editor

Another human rights issue that surfaced during the events was the attack on the Uthayan Editor, T Thevanathan. He had gone to the scene to cover the story with his camera. This had taken place on the first day, the 27th and not the second day. As MP Saravanapavan reports the following was what had happened.

“Then I too ran in the same direction and on my way I saw Jaffna HQI Sam Sigora standing there. Then I saw an army officer hitting a person’s face by keeping him standing against a wall of a Hindu temple. Then, I went to the scene and shouted to stop hitting. When my bodyguard came and said in Sinhala that I am a Member of Parliament the officer stopped his blows. When the person who got the blows raised his head, I recognized him as the Editor of Uthayan newspaper. I understand that he was attacked for taking photographs of the activities of the army and also the lamps lighted in the Girls hostel.”

No further comment on the attack on the Uthayan Editor is necessary except to say that perhaps this heralds what to come again on the freedom of the media not only in the North but also in the South. The university students in the South have already started protesting against what happened at the Jaffna University on the 27th and 28th November. Similar protests are necessary to uphold the media freedom of the Uthayan Editor, T Thevanathan and in Jaffna in general.
The evolving events are alarming and perhaps indicate a major political calamity to come soon. It could be in the form of a ‘quasi-military rule headed by the Executive President’ sans an independent judiciary and a meek Parliament which could sanction anything of the ‘military-executive’ claiming to be a ‘supreme legislature.’ What might be crucial is the unity between the opposition forces in the North and the South. This is not to speak of unity within all opposition forces and parties which is so obviously important. I still believe that the move towards a quasi-military rule is not necessarily the strength but the weakness of the Rajapaksa regime. It is a weakness emerging from their complicity of war crimes at the last stages of the war. It is to cover up and to defend that they are leaning on the military more and more.
There is nothing wrong in adopting what Martin Niemoller said about how the Nazis spread their tentacles in suffocating democracy in Germany to suit Sri Lanka today.

They have come against the Judiciary,
They have killed the prisoners in Welikada,
They have attacked the students in Jaffna,
They will come against everyone very soon,
If we don’t stop them united.

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Latest comments

  • 0
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    What seems to have happened at the Jaffna university is regrettable and perhaps lays the foundation for minority disenchanchment with how law enforcement is practiced against their interests.

    This short-sighted approach can later snowball from the nascent rumblings to more turbulent upheaval. The students seem to have partaken in mourning (rather than moaning) overtly against this predictable (unjustifiable) backdrop.

    These developments do not seem to herald positive outcomes for Sri Lanka’s future as a harmonious and equitable social environment.

    • 0
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      Yes, it should be corrected as mourning.

  • 0
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    Sinhala budhist teorror must be removed from tamil, areas. Srilanka is a cursed country, Rajapkase gang must be removed by any cost.

  • 0
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    I am glad we have men like Prof Laksiri Fernando – able to feel, think and write against injustice across the ethnic-racial divide. The issue here is a matter of interpretation. To the Tamils in Jaffna and, more specifically to the University students, it was to remember and pay respects to the memory of the thousands of the youth who laid their lives to resist perceived crimes against their Nation. To the racially-prejudiced ordinary army man in the street, Tamils are the surviving
    “enemy” and should soon be eliminated if his race is to survive. Officers above the level of the foot soldier are not deeply literate too. On top of that is the widely believed theory those controlling the army from Colombo have given a blanket order to eliminate any and all signs of the re-birth of the LTTE.

    The right of paying homage to the dead will be refused only by a savage and lawless society. There is no room in today’s enlightened world for such. At the sametime those on the Tamil side must have in their thoughts the welfare and good of their people. They should not place themselves in the position of having done the right thing in the wrong place/time. The old wise saying is that there is a place and time for all good deeds.

    Who is to determine at the spot the distinction between mourning and moaning. The angry, prejudiced, tense soldier is the last man to make a decision. In the nature of its suspect credibility the Army heirarchy both in Jaffna and Colombo, say the army was not there.
    If a credible inquiry proves the army officer was guilty of threatening and/or assaulting MP Saravanapavan he must be suitably dealt with, if law and order are still effective features in Jaffna.

    Any professional Army/Police should have known Tamil youth will defy questionable rules and express solidarity with their fallen comrades in the last week of November.Both our Army/Police were remiss in handling a small issue that has now blown up into a bigger and unfortunate blot. The regime also should not rest easy this matter, like all other, will slip out of the public mind sooner than later. The Tamil Nation is tired of living under the jackboot and is denied its inalienable right of democratic local governance. Good and legitimate governance in a restless region/society is the stuff of caring rulers and professional administrators.

    Senguttuvan

  • 0
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    Did the Jaffna students protest against not allocating 6%?

    Did they protest threats against free education?

    Nooooooo

    Did they moan for LTTE bastards? Damn yes..

    Then they deserve punishment.

    My freedom of expression. Don’t blame me..
    Then they deserve punishment?

    • 0
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      [Edited out] what are you talking about. how qualified are you to make the above comments.

      Part of this comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy
      http://colombotelegraph.com/comments-policy/

    • 0
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      [Edited out], who are you to decide what tamil people of the north want. so you have assumed the role of a decision maker and you want to speak on behalf of the tamil community. [Edited out], we will make our own decisions so you back stabbing [Edited out] just shut your gob and get lost. go and try halal [Edited out] for a change.

    • 0
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      hail;
      you are not Latif, BUT A REAL THIEF.
      DONT YOU.
      a PAID ASS LICKER FOR M R REGIME..

  • 0
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    Lighting lamps on Karthigai Theepam is customary.I t had happenend for ages.What is Mr.Latiff talking about. Did n’t the Jaffna University dons strike along the other dons ? This comments appear to come from a biased mind Brcause of people like this demcracy suffers.

  • 0
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    As more and more details of this deplorable action emerge it seems that the police and armed forces have taken the law into their own hands. A prima facie case exists for assault and battery.

    Since the officers in charge have been seen by witnesses it would be appropriate to file charges against them in the courts. No one should be above the law, neither the police nor armed forces.

  • 0
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    I am not sure what the fuss is about lighting a lamp. The lamp will not bring the dead back to life. The LTTE died with Prabhakaran. Increasing the army by 30% or 50% to prevent another armed struggle (or to make the nationalists in the South feel better) is a colossal waste of money. Even the capabilities of the army are limited without adequate investment in human capital. For example, the India will be putting out nuclear submarines very shortly. It’s indegenous space program (which can be used for gathering intelligence) is also up and running. In contrast, Sri Lanka is still importing Chinese junk (weapons) with Chinese money, to terrorize the Tamil inhabitants in the North and East. The LTTE may be gone, but Sri Lanka is no match for India or Pakistan if they try to invade.

    • 0
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      man, sri lankan black monkey army took 30 years to defeat tigers. you know that’s with the help of red china and porkistan.

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        True, the LTTE fought well. One thing is, Sri Lanka should not try to become a major military power in the region. It does not have the manpower, and, in the event of a real war, most of its urban population can simply be wiped out from the sky, given the high population density of its major cities. If Gothabaya Rajapakse, the mastermind behind the rise of the SLA, thinks he can imitate Israel (a very small country with a very good army) he is wrong on that point also. Israel gets billions from the USA just to test weapons for the USA. My point is why is more than 60% of the national budget going for defense, other than to scare Tamils. Not only should the Army be completely removed from the North and East (except for a few hundred soldiers), but the size of the Army should be cut by about 2/3 to obtain optimum budget allocation.

      • 0
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        Rama dont get angry, cool man..WE have to fight our corner with cool head. We all know ltte defeated by all rascals from this world. Now they know the true face of sinhala budhist barbarism…Wait according to the horoscope everythiing going to change soon Rajapakse will be knocked out by his right hand man, One Mokku bikku will rise up and kill another rajapakse…whole of srilanka will be a new direction…sinhala budhist will realize how they ruled by thugs and criminals so far from 1948…good for sinhala and thamils…bright for sinhala srilanka and thmils ealam…

  • 0
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    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy
    http://colombotelegraph.com/comments-policy/

  • 0
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    Basically rubbish.
    Shamelessly prejudiced.
    You have been misinformed and exposed, Your bias with regard to the Army is shocking
    Can you show one photo showing soldiers attacking the students?.There aren’t any because the Army didn’t.
    What is your frustration? That it was the army that defeated the stinking LTTE?

    • 0
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      yes, it is a frustration of being a minority among majority control.Sri Lankan government claims Tamils hated LTTE and they save all the children from terrorism.If that the case, why do they put so much of military to control Warzone? Why Tamils are still supporting those terrorists?

      The truth is Tamils still believe in them.LTTE was ruthless to Sinhalese. They hate them.Tamil have the same feeling over Army who did atrocities against them.This is a bitter truth.

      The true peace comes from understanding and compromise.It does not come from oppression.Oppression and injustice are the root cause for terrorism.If terrorism is wrong,then the oppression is wrong to too.

    • 0
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      Dude?
      Didn’t you read the part which mentions the the media personal went to cover story got beaten up by the thugs in uniform. How do you expect to see pictures.

    • 0
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      yOU BLXXXY IDIOT, JUMP FROM GALLE FACE PRESS OFFICE .
      MAN VERY SAME . BECAUSE YOU HAVE NO BACKBONE.
      VERY SHAME TO US . SRI LANKANS.

  • 0
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    Sri Lanka is doing very well it is the anti government intelligentsia that is up in arms, because they the each group of them have their own agenda, which is not favourable to the government which has restored a Sri Lanka from wounds and debilitation to be healthy vigorous which advances economically faster than many of the Western countries in utter economic disarray. It is neither UNP, nor JVP or the numerous NGOs that will helkp the prosperity of the country and the unity of our people to make a great Nation of Sri Lankans. If the Jaffna University Students are to join hands with Futa to disrupt this government another war is evident as it was against the terrorists.

  • 0
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    They have come against not the judiciary but the corrupted Chief justice,
    They have not killed the prisoners but had to kill the armoured criminals who fired on the security, They haven’t attacked the students of Jaffna but the terrorist sympathizes who tried to plant the seeds of ruthless terrorism again, They will not come against us in future as they were not in the past. But one thing has missed in your list Mr. Fernando. Can you remember him? We know now he was used in your agenda and how useless he is now in your propaganda. A gang of traitors used that great hero against our president and when he became useless against president, everybody left him, even you and your list.How great you are,

    It is not rare to find [Edited out] like Dr. Laksiri fernando who hate our great president and the motherland. How hard he tried to hide the reality remind us how much dollars they receiving from out side the country. We, people of Sri Lanka will forgive the terrorists but will never forgive the traitors.

  • 0
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    Does your comments-policy allows use of the word “Bastard”.It shows your bias towards Tamil people & LTTE.
    Hats off to Dr.Laksiri Fernando.
    Please publish this article in Sinhala so the ordinary will at least what is happening in their country called Srilanka.

  • 0
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    Rama, Lester and R. Kovian, It is not clear whether you are Sri Lankans or not. Any how it is very clear that you are against the elimination of terrorism from our soil. I use this time to tribute our great Sri Lankan army for liberating the country from tiger terrorists. We know how brave they are in the battle field. they fought not against a conventional army, instead they had to fight against a group of barbaric terrorists who used all ruthless tactics against civilians.

    LTTE barbarians are not only ruthless but also cowards. It has proven by them firstly keeping Tamil civilians as a human shield at the last stage of the war. Secondly by shooting at their own people who tried to flee Army control areas for safety. It is because our great heroes they are still alive.

    Another truth everybody should know that Tamils who lived with Sinhala Buddhists, in the south were more safer, healthier and wealthier than the Tamils who lived with their own people in the north. Racist never want world to know this bitter truth. After the killing of Mrs.Indira Ghandi a lot of Sikh nationals were killed from the very next day. But in Sri Lanka when our president Premadasa was brutally killed by a Tamil suicide bomber, no single Tamil was harmed. This is how the Buddhist Sinhalese are in this lovely country.

    “Capturing Kilinochchi is a Rajapaksha’s day dream” This was well famous saying of Tamil tiger god father. But at last our president liberated not only Kilinochchi but also whole country by showing Prabhakaran the road to devil. Traitors, terrorist or out side enemies can say any thing against our motherland but we are ready to save our motherland at any cost.

  • 0
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    Dr. Fernando, it is refreshing to see that there are still educated people in my beloved Lanka with profound sight for justice and freedom.
    I particularly like the comparison to the 3rd Reich; history, may it be for good or ill, will repeat itself until and unless the leadership of every level learn from history itself. What saddens me is the realization of how long the people of Sri Lanka, especially the Tamils from the North will have to suffer for this learning process to transpire, if it ever even begins in the first place.

    • 0
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      It’s time for Sri Lankans to CREATE history, not just read about it. We need to Srilankanize the entire north and east so that this stupid Tamil homeland remnants would get lost, and there will never be any problem.

      There’s no other choice left to deal with the TTD.

      • 0
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        Dear bunkerRat, whether you like it or not history IS created every day in Sri Lanka. But the responsibility lies with the leadership and in some part, the people of the county to make it a favorable one for EVERYONE. I doubt, you fully grasped the points that were made in the article nor are capable of impartial commentary. And my point is that the author, unlike the rubbish that you burped out, has made comments from an impartial perspective.
        You seem to have the view of the majority of Sri Lankans who happen to be Majority in other aspects as well and that is not very refreshing.

        • 0
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          Tamil homeland is a myth… Never can be achieved. LTTE or whatever terrorist never reborn… Never regain…This is Sri Lanka. One country… One nation… no one can dance over it… If someone trying, We do not hesitate to cut his neck…

          We worship our great motherland…

      • 0
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        BunkerRat

        What are you doing to help those members of armed forces whose heads
        are screwed up because witnessing war crimes or perpetrating them. They suffer from PTDS.

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