By N. Logathayalan –
Recall the Colombo Telegraph story I reported on10 Sept. 2018 of a Tamil family abused by the Police Officer-in-Charge (OIC) Kanakarayankulam named Thamintha Sinthu taking the side of a Muslim trader to whom they had leased their land. The trader had opened an eating house named Dawood Restaurant on the leased land. When the landowner Vasanthakumar refused to renew the lease upon its expiry, and asked the trader to vacate, the OIC Thamintha Sinthu arrested Vasanthakumr, ripped off Mrs. Vasanthakumar’s dress in public space and brutally assaulted their two children who were hospitalized as a result.
Nothing happened to the OIC Thamintha Sinthu despite widespread exposure by the press and complaints by MPs including an in-person complaint by Member of Parliament Charles Nirmalanathan to the Deputy Inspector General of Police Roshan Fernando. I accompanied the MP at the time.
Today (1 May) news has been received that bombs on 30 April had been discovered in Dawood Restaurant, and that the Muslim owner is locked up in the Police Station. But thanks to the OIC’s kindness, he is getting VIP treatment in the police station lock-up. Rather unusually, Dawood has been provided with a mat, a hot-water bottle with hot water and a pillow as seen pictured here. In contrast Tamil prisoners in the past have complained of losing their sarong and being kissed in the night by homosexual prisoners on drugs charges at Police Stations, and of being beaten by a baton at Welikada for asking for food for a sick fellow-prisoner — not to mention the hundreds who have been tortured as in the famous case in California concerning our former Defence Secretary.
The police who have always been a law unto. During the search of the Jaffna Mosque, Muslims elders who attended the inter-religious meeting (at the Roman Catholic Church’s Catechetical Institute in Jaffna) on the Easter Day Bombings, bitterly complained about
1. Finding only tea at the mosque, the angry military was abusive of the Mosque’s Manager and Moulavi before the press as if they were criminals. As the Manager put it, they were loaded on jeeps and the press invited to photograph them. They feel humiliated.
2. The students who stayed at the Mosque (who had fled Jaffna after locking up their rooms) having their room-door locks broken up by the army to enter and search.
In another incident, in Jaffna, a person A had tipped off the army about person B which a former LTTE-er C had come to know of. An altercation arose between A and C and the army having been made aware again picked up C at Casthuriyar Road Jaffna and things were turning rough on 29 April. The location being close to my newspaper offices, I photographed this as C was loaded into an army vehicle. The angered Captain pictured here at a later time in front of the dog’s handler, confiscated my camera and erased everything on it including several of my archival records. As several other reporters gathered and began photographing, he returned my camera.
Colombo Telegraph reported some time ago of Rasanayagam Sarvananthan a rehabilitated LTTE-er arrested as suspect in the murder of two placemen at Vavunaitivu. The southern press hysterically made much alleging the LTTE’s revival. Many Tamils who knew his family life and work protested his innocence but to no avail. However, during the current raids in Batticaloa the gun of one of the policemen has been recovered and the President this day (May 1) has ordered Sarvananthan’s release.
The incident is in contrast to the close nexus the army is trying to develop with former LTTE-cardres. A photo nearby shows a meeting called by the army in Jaffna with former militants seeking their collaboration. The army seems to be tapping into their inveterate anti-Muslim sentiments developed during the war. Whether they will agree is to be seen but very doubtful given the state’s attitudes and deeply rooted prejudices against minorities.
Is the Jackboot gone? It has at least eased iteself off Tamil necks temporarily at least. The army and police are indeed brutal and corrupt. But in this present crisis so far except for occasional lapses like these, in Jaffna at least harassment of the public has been little. For example, going South to Vavuniya from Jaffna, there are few checkpoints – at Navatkuli, Poonakari or Elephant Pass depending on your route, and then at Mankulam, Omanthai, and Thandikulam. Reaching Vavuniya, until Batticaloa there is no single check point. From other parts of Jaffna, I have heard only of check points at Puraaporukki Chanthi near Point Pedro and Mandaithivu.
Checking has been professional but is tiresome as all bags need to be opened. Otherwise Jaffna is generally peaceful. Few people are to be seen on the roads because of the threat of bombings and the cyclone Fani that mayhit us or pass us by. No wonder the government wanted the Pakistani refugees (who are here as a part of the UN’s refugee programs) to be accommodated in Chettikulam as Tamil areas are deemed safe, But as a result of vehement protests from some Tamil MPs (particularly one who said that if the Pakistanis were brought North he would not vote for the government even if ordered to do so by his leader R. Sampanthan himself), the government has relented and is looking for other places to house the poor Pakistani Refugees.
The irony is that the North is having peace of sorts. But will it last with little commitment to rights from our government? It is like waiting to see if the calm before cyclone Fani hovering in the Bay of Bengal now will hit us or go away.