May 18: Heightened surveillance, physical intimidation and court bans for Tamils

Senior Tamil politician and former member of Parliament M K Sivajilingam was manhandled while trying to pay tribute at a memorial in Jaffna.

While returning back from Mullaitivu after paying homage to the war dead at the recently vandalised monument in Mullivaikkal , he came forward to pay tribute at a memorial erected in memory of those killed during the Fourth International Tamil Conference held in Jaffna more than four decades ago.

In a video that went viral two military personnel could be seen literally manhandling and attempting to stop the former MP from lighting a lamp for those who lost their lives in 1974.

The monument was in a public place and no ban has been imposed on people visiting the place or paying homage.

'It's our right'

“We have a right too, the military does not have anything to do here, if necessary, call the police, it’s just like a memorial where people can light a lamp whenever they want” he could be seen saying in Sinhala to the military.

In spite of Covid-19 restrictions in place, the two military persons could be seen physically obstructing him and snatching the camphor and match box from him. While doing so he could also be heard saying " Don’t hit me, you are beating me with your hands.”

However, the adamant military was in no mood to heed to the former MP’s plea and continued to physically push him away.

“Move away... move away, if there is an issue-call the officers. Call the police” he could be heard pleading with them.

As the video went viral social media users condemned the soldier’s behaviour commenting ‘a 63-year-old man is being hounded by the Sinhala military for lighting a lamp’.

Victory celebration

Meanwhile the Sri Lankan government conducted its annual war hero’s day aka victory against the Tamil Tigers in which more than 40,000 civilians were killed according to UN figures.

Even though Island wide restrictions are in place to curtail the spread of the deadly Covid pandemic, the event in Colombo went unmindful of the restrictions issued by its own Army chief who is in charge of Covid-19 control, which is essentially a civilian officer’s job.

Telecast live on the state TV, participants at the event could be seen not strictly adhering to social distancing and even disregarding the basic guidelines of wearing a mask and maintaining social distancing.

In spite of Tamil being an official language in Sri Lanka, no announcement was in Tamil at the event and the announcement was bilingual in Sinhala and English, in what commentators say is a clear indication of Tamils and their language.

Earlier the number of people arrested for mourning the war dead and paying homage to them at a beach front in Batticaloa increased to ten. They were arrested curiously rather than posting the pictures and video on Facebook rather that organising and conducting the event. Arrests have been made in Jaffna too.

However, Tamils braved the threat of the military and police and mourned their dead in their offices, homes and temples as severe surveillance was in place in North and East. Police and military could be seen surrounding Politicians and elected representatives houses and offices and video recording the solemn occasion of paying tribute the Tamils who lost their lives during the final phase of the brutal civil war.



Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka

  • JDS is the Sri Lankan partner organization of international media rights group, Reporters Without Borders (RSF). The launching of this website was made possible by the EU’s European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), of which Reporters Without Borders is a beneficiary.