By Irving Feng
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – The Sri Lankan government arrested and detained multiple alleged terrorists last week after a clash between police security forces and student protestors at Jaffna University.
Students at Jaffna University were organizing a celebration of “Maveerar Naal,” Martyr’s Day, to commemorate fallen Tamil Tigers, a separatist movement which was quashed in 2009. The celebration of Maveerar Naal is seen as separatism which is illegal under the current Sri Lankan government’s anti-terrorism laws.
The separatist movement, the Tamil Tigers, fought with the present Sri Lankan government in a civil war in hopes of achieving an independent Tamil state in their northern and eastern homelands. After their defeat in 2009, the Tamils have suffered systematic repression at the hands of the Sri Lankan government.
Four of the main student leaders organizing the event to commemorate fallen Tamil Tigers were brutally attacked, arrested and detained by police. Around 400 peaceful, unarmed students were also attacked by police security forces for their demonstrations against the unfairness of the arrests and the government’s bar on their right to protest.
The police also broke into and ransacked the rooms of a women’s student hostel. The violent actions of the Sri Lankan police security forces are viewed by many in the Tamil community as a continual strategy for intimidating and punishing the subpopulation for their prior separatist activities.
Although the civil war has ended and the Tamil fighters have long been disarmed, the central Sri Lankan government continues their assault on the civil rights of the Tamil population. The government has gone as far as stripping the Tamil population of their Sri Lankan citizenship.
In addition to the four main student organizers who were arrested and labeled as suspected terrorists, official reports say that as many as 20-25 more suspects have been arrested and detained in connection with this outbreak of violence against student protestors in Jaffna.
The Sri Lankan police and government officials assured the public that their anti-terrorist activities and violent assaults and arrests of the alleged terrorists are entirely legal. The police say they have followed proper procedures and have informed all of the suspects’ families of the proceedings and the specific locations of where the suspects are being held.
However, the families of some of the suspects say that they have been kept in the dark regarding the arrests of their family members. One family says that they received information on the arrest of their son long after the arrest occurred and only after they alerted the local human rights officials.
For further information, please see:
BBC – Sri Lanka arrests: Jaffna police detain ‘terror’ suspects – 6 December 2012
Socialist Worker Online – Tamil students and lecturers strike in Jaffna against repression – 6 December 2012
Tamilnet – Sri Lanka intensifies terror campaign against Tamil students – 6 December 2012
Sri Lanka Internet Newspaper – Sri Lanka Tamil parties protest in Jaffna against arrest of students – 4 December 2012
Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka – Jaffna student leader, three others arrested in midnight raid – 2 December 2012
The Washington Post – US expresses concern about attack on student demonstration in Sri Lanka’s former war zone – 29 November 2012