By R Sampanthan –
Sri Jayawardenapura, Kotte.
Standing Order 23(2) – proviso: Notice of question relating to matter of urgent public importance – to be made on 10th April 2013
On Saturday, 30th March 2013, a mob of around 50 persons who came in a procession along the A9 highway carrying the national flag attacked a meeting held at the Tamil National Alliance office of Hon S Shritharan MP in Kilinochchi by throwing rocks and concrete stones. In addition to Hon S Shritharan MP, Hon S Senathirajah MP, Hon E Saravanapavan MP and Hon M A Sumanthiran MP were present there at that time. The members of Parliament were engaged in meeting with about 100 residents of Kilinochchi relating to maters of concern to the Tamil People. This attack took place in the presence of the Kilinochchi Police, who did nothing to prevent it, and resulted in injuries to 13 persons and extensive damage to property. This attack was recorded on video and photographs and the persons involved are easily identifiable. However, not one person has been arrested in relation to this violence up to date, despite the presence of the police on the scene while the attack took place. In fact, one assailant apprehended by those present at the meeting was identified to be an officer of the Criminal Investigation Department [CID] of the Sri Lankan Police. He was handed over to the Deputy Inspector General of Police who arrived at the scene later, but was released shortly thereafter. Two others, who were similarly caught in the act and handed over to the Police, were also promptly released.
This is not the first time such attacks have been carried out on TNA meetings. On 16th June 2011 army personnel in full uniform attacked a TNA local authority election meeting at Alaveddy in Jaffna, at which five Members of Parliament were present. Although the assailants were in uniform and identifiable, to date no one has been arrested in relation to that incident. More violence was unleashed against the people the day before the local authority elections at that time, particularly in the Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu districts. Army personnel went house to house and confiscated National Identity Cards and the Polling Cards of the people and warned them not to vote for the TNA. I made a complaint to the Commissioner of Elections with full parlicularsand consequently some of those people were able to vote and the TNA emerged victorious. During the Eastern Provincial Council election several acts of intimidation, undue influence, misrepresentation, bribery and other malpractices were committed by persons inclusive of security intelligence personnel supporting the ruling party. These matters were brought to the notice of the President, the Commissioner of Elections, the Inspector General of Police and other authorities. However, no tangible action that could erase the impact of such misdeeds and ensure a free and fair election was taken raising grave doubts in regard to the independence and integrity of the electoral, police and public service authorities entrusted with the duty of conducting elections. Several other meetings and rallies were also similarly disrupted and more recently, on 15th February 2013, military intelligence personnel disrupted a hunger strike by the Tamil people at the Durgai Amman temple premises at Tellipallai, which was also attended by the Leader of the Opposition. There too, persons who were arrested by the Police were released by the Army that intervened.
Mr Speaker, you will observe that the common feature of all these attacks is that they have been carried out by or with the connivance of the security forces and the police and even though the assailants were identifiable, no arrests have been made. These are also carried out under the watchful eyes of the police. This is clearly indicative of the complicity of the authorities
The most recent attack was in the early hours of the morning on 3rd April 2013, on the Kilinochchi distribution office of the Uthayan newspaper by armed assailants. Of the four staff injured, one is in a serious condition. Property has also been damaged. The attack took place when a vehicle carrying copies of the newspaper for distribution arrived at the Kilinochchi office. The incident is the latest in a series of brutal attacks on Uthayan staff in the last few months. In December 2012, the Editor T. Premananth was hospitalized after military officers and plain-clothes policemen beat him repeatedly while he was covering a protest at the University of Jaffna. In January this year, an Uthayan employee who was distributing newspapers in Velvettithurai was attacked by four armed men who also torched his motorbike. The victim was admitted to hospital with a fractured arm. No arrests have been made in relation to any of these attacks. Uthayan is an independent newspaper that publishes news, perhaps not palatable to the government. This demonstrates the lack of media freedom and the threat to freedom of expression in the country now.
These attacks on the democratic rights of the Tamil People of the freedom of association, freedom of opinion and freedom of expression in the North and East are clearly carried out with the active support, sanction and collusion of the Sri Lankan government. They are a vain and counterproductive attempt to suppress and persecute Tamils for their political aspirations. We call on the Sri Lankan government to immediately cease the violence directed against the Tamil People. We reiterate that to prevent a non-recurrence of the past, Sri Lanka must expeditiously commence a meaningful and genuine process of reconciliation based on the ascertainment of the truth, ensuring justice and providing adequate reparations for the victims of violations committed by all parties.
*R Sampanthan – Parliamentary Group Leader, Ilankai Tamil Arasu Kadchi (TNA) Sampanthan’s speech in parliament today.