Sri Lanka terror police arresting Jaffna mayor “nothing but Fascism”

The midnight arrest of the Jaffna mayor has sparked a huge furore in the Sri Lankan Parliament with Tamil lawmakers calling it as “nothing but fascism”.

Mayor Viswalingam Manivannan detained and interrogated by the Counter Terrorist Investigation Division (CTID), formerly known as TID, was later released on bail.

Tamil National People’s Front (TNPF) Leader Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam and Tamil National Alliance (TNA) member Sivagnanam Siritharan raised the issue Friday (9) in Parliament and urged the speaker to immediately intervene and secure his release.

Jaffna Municipal Task Force

“This is fascism, you are militarising the country on the one hand and creating racism on the other hand and now you are preventing any form of other opinion. This is nothing but fascism,”- Ponnambalam thundered in Parliament.

Viswalingam Manivannan and a member of the Jaffna Municipal Council Varatharaja Parthipan were summoned to the Jaffna Police station at 8 PM on Thursday for an inquiry based on a complaint from the commissioner of the Municipality.

The inquiry continued till 2 AM on Friday after which the Mayor was handed over to the CTID, before being taken to Vavuniya.

However, the main parliamentary opposition insisted that the uniform in question was indeed 'similar' to the one worn by LTTE police. Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) MP and the brother-in-law of army chief General Shavendra Silva, Kins Kumara Nelson told parliament that he has visual evidence to prove it.

State Minister of National Security Chamal Rajapaksa invited him to attend a top level consultative committee on defence, led by President Goatabaya Rajapaksa, with such evidence.

Mayor Manivannan is accused of appointing a Jaffna Municipal Task Force - a five-member municipal civil monitoring team with what the authorities say with a uniform similar to the one worn by the erstwhile LTTE’s police division.

According to the Mayor, the role of the said team is to ensure the upkeep of the Jaffna city and regulating traffic.

But Police spokesperson DIG Ajith Rohana said, “Manivannan had deployed five individuals wearing uniforms similar to that of the LTTE police to perform the duties of the municipal council. Investigations will be carried out under the provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA)”.

The police spokesman failed to give details of the purported ‘simillarites’.


However, several municipal councils including the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) – Sri Lanka’s largest - have staff in public duties dressed in similar outfits.

"What Mr.Manivannan did was very similar to what the Colombo Municipal Council did," said parliamentarian and Tamizh Makkal Thesiya Kootani (TMTK) Leader C.V Wigneswaran

"We are told that the uniform given to the Municipal Workers in Jaffna resemble the uniform used by the LTTE police force. But in fact it resembles the uniform given to similar workers in the Colombo Municipal Council."


Police also say, a special investigation was launched by Jaffna Police and Terrorism Investigation Division upon the directives of Minister of Public Security Sarath Weerasekara and statements pertaining to the incident has been recorded from the Jaffna Municipal Commissioner and several other officials of the municipal council.

Those recruited were appointed purely on temporary basis by the Jaffna Mayor.

In a press briefing before his arrest the mayor said the duty of the Jaffna Urban Task Force is to monitor the garbage dumping, collecting fine, violation of Corona virus regulations among other things.

'Preposterous attempt'

This government going beyond any stretch of imagination Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam told the Parliament.

“The attempt by the government to try and portray him as trying to resurrect a LTTE section - the police force is preposterous. Under the municipal councils in various parts of this country including Colombo, there are various sections that are created....for parking tickets to be this various things are done. For a person to have used a light blue dark blue colour to create such a section within the municipal council and is accused to be reviving the LTTE is preposterous”.

TNA MP Sivagnanam Sritharan also condemned the move in the Parliament and sought his immediate release.

“The uniform of the Jaffna Municipal monitoring team is similar to that of the Colombo Municipal corporation. The idea of creating such a team was to have a clean city. But such an activity has been painted as a terrorist activity which is a dangerous precedent”, he said.

Though the 13th amendment to the constitution provides devolution of police powers to the elected provincial councils, Colombo has not devolved such powers to them. The elected bodies apart from the Parliament has very limited powers in Sri Lanka.



Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka

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