Massive protest in Jaffna – demand international prosecutions, decry supervision of domestic mechanisms

“While it is true that the Tamil people voted in large numbers for President Sirisena, we wish to emphasise that this was merely an anti-Rajapksa vote. We did not vote with the hope of any substantive change resulting from regime change,” said the appeal by the organisers of the massive protest in Jaffna on Tuesday. More than 5,000 students and people from all walks of life in Jaffna took part in the first largest demonstration after the end of genocidal war in Vanni on Tuesday. “International supervision of any domestic mechanism will only serve to waste time,” the appeal by the Jaffna University society said. The procession, which started at the University of Jaffna ended at the remains of the foundation of Thileepan monument at Nalloor.

“Given our long experience with Sinhala Buddhist hegemonic institutions that dominate Sri Lanka’s politics, we have no faith that members of the Sri Lankan armed forces will ever be prosecuted locally for any wrong doing,” the appeal said urging the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to request the Sri Lankan Government to give access to the “OISL team to gather evidence in Sri Lanka with high protection to the witnesses, leading to a much more comprehensive report in September and b) necessary processes are initiated following the submission of the report leading to international prosecutions.”

“The first month of President Srisena’s Government has proved that the Tamil people cannot expect anything new from this government barring a few cosmetic changes. The key issues that we face are those relating to militarization, colonization (by way of forcible demographic changes), the issue of disappearances and illegal detention. No significant steps have been taken by the Srisena Government on any of these issues,” the appeal further stated.

Many trade unions and public associations in Jaffna had joined hands with Jaffna University society as organisers of the demonstration on Tuesday.

The president of Jaffna University Teachers Association, A Rasakumaran, urged the public to take part in the future protests with the same spirit of unity demonstrated on Tuesday in demanding justice for the injustices committed against Eezham Tamils. “Shedding away all the differences, we will stand united in taking forward the democratic struggle. We will demonstrate to this world that no one can suppress our democratic struggle,” the JUTA president proclaimed.

The representatives of civil groups, NGOs and politicians, who came to attend the protest, including the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and Tamil National Peoples Front (TNPF) politicians, were requested by the organisers to take part in the procession as average members of the public.

The procession was peacefully organised without causing any disturbance to the public traffic.

Sri Lankan military intelligence had deployed a number of operatives clad in civil clothes to monitor the organisers since Monday night at the environs of the University of Jaffna. Armed SL soldiers were also deployed in large numbers along with the SL police.

The Northern Provincial Council (NPC) had postponed its sittings on Tuesday by two hours in order to allow the NPC councillors to take part in the demonstration.

Mr Rasakumaran, who addressed the protesters from Thileepan’s monument, handed over two copies of the appeal addressed to the UN Human Rights Chief Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al-Hussein to the Bishop of Mannaar Rt Rev Rayappu Joesph and to the president of Saiva priests association, S. Vasudeva Kurukkal, requesting the two religious dignitaries to hand over the appeal to the UN Resident Coordinator in Colombo, Mr. Subinay Nandy.

Mannaar Bishop Rayappu Joseph has already denounced domestic investigation mechanism even if it was to incorporate international monitoring. He expressed faith that OISL findings to be released in September will be strong against the conduct of the SL State.

In an interview to BBC Tamil on Sunday, the Mannaar Bishop also revealed that there were eyewitnesses who had seen dead bodies numbering between 30,000 and 35,000 at Visuvamadu during the genocidal onslaught on Vanni. The new information has surfaced just two weeks ago from credible eyewitnesses, he told the BBC adding that structural genocide was still on-going under the new regime. The structural genocide will also continue unabated if the SL State was not prepared to undertake fundamental changes in its approach giving equality to Tamils, the Bishop further said.

The Bishop also said there was no effort by Tamils to revive the LTTE. There was no acceptable justification whatsoever to continue the SL military occupation at the current scale, he said in the interview to BBC Tamil.

Late Lt. Col. Thileepan, a former the Jaffna district political head of LTTE, sacrificed his life in September 1987, after waging a fast unto death campaign against the collaboration of the New Delhi with the then Sri Lankan regime following the Indo-Lanka agreement of July 1987. The site at Nalloor, where Thileepan sacrificed his life, is regarded as a symbol of democratic and non-violent struggle against external powers collaborating with the Colombo regime. The monument was demolished by the occupying Sri Lankan military.

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