Protests called against the ‘undemocratic actions’ of govt.
Following a call from Tamil political parties and civil society groups for a hartal, Sri Lanka’s Tamil-majority north and east shut down on Monday to protest against the Rajapaksa administration’s “undemocratic actions” and attempts to “stifle dissent”.
The development comes days after a magistrate court barred a memorial event to remember Thileepan, a political leader with the LTTE who fasted unto death in 1987, while urging the Indian government to keep its promise to the Tamils.
Protesting against the court order, Tamil leaders across political parties and activists observed a fast on Saturday, calling for a hartal to assert their right to remember Thileepan and to resist the order banning the memorial event.
Local Tamil media reported that Monday’s hartal witnessed a near-total shutdown in the island’s Northern and Eastern Provinces, where many schools and shops remained closed all day.
Thileepan’s resistance [from September 15 to 26, 1987] centred on five main demands, including the release of Tamils detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, Sinhala “colonisation” and withdrawal of Sri Lankan troops from schools.
In a speech in front of Jaffna Fort, shortly before commencing his fast, Thileepan said: “Accords have been brought about by our enemies to dampen national fervour whenever this shows signs of boiling over. Today, the Indo-Lanka accord is meant to suppress the thirst of the people for liberation,” according to Broken Palmyra¸ authored by academics Rajan Hoole, Daya Somasundaram, K. A. Sritharan and Rajani Thiranagama.
Indian intervention during the civil war years came under sharp criticism, especially around the time the Indo-Lanka Accord of 1987 was signed, and the subsequent arrival of the Indian Peace Keeping Force, which was present on the island on a “peace keeping” mission until 1990. The four academics were the public face of the University Teachers for Human Rights – Jaffna, a group that exposed human rights abuses committed by the IPKF, in addition to those carried out by the state armed forces and Tamil militant groups, including the LTTE.
Their fierce criticism of all warring actors — compiled in the Broken Palmyra — remains one of the most compelling accounts of excesses committed by all warring actors. Rajani Thiranagama, who was killed in September 1989, reportedly by the LTTE, was remembered in a separate event in Jaffna on Saturday.