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Arrests in Jaffna as Sri Lankan police block Thileepan commemorations

A Sri Lankan policeman walks past the Thileepan memorial in Nallur after security forces removed decorations that had been set up to commemorate Thileepan's hunger strike.

Sri Lankan police in Jaffna have arrested at least one Tamil politician and removed decorations that had been set up in Nallur to mark the 33rd commemoration of Lt Col Thileepan’s hunger strike this morning. 

M K  Shivajilingam, a former northern provincial council member, was arrested this morning as he attempted pay tribute to Thileepan in Nallur. The arrest comes after security forces reportedly destroyed arrangements made for the remembrance in the early hours of Tuesday, September 15, which marks the beginning of the week-long commemoration. 

Police in Koppay have also removed the arrangements that were put up at Jaffna University.

The security forces had also obtained a ban on the commemoration from the Magistrate Court on Monday, claiming that “unnamed foreign citizens were planning to attend the event and hence a spread of COVID19 was likely,” tweeted Jaffna-based lawyer R K Guruparan. 

“Police argued today that Thileepan was an LTTE leader and that the commemoration was to glorify the LTTE, which we denied,” he added. “Court refused to alter the order on the basis that as long as the PTA is there cannot commemorate fallen LTTE cadres.”

V Manivannan, a Jaffna-based attorney, told Tamil Guardian that they had appealed to the court to grant permission to carry out remembrance activities which was denied by the Jaffna Magistrate Court. 

Lt Col Thileepan began his hunger strike on this day (September 15) in 1987 calling on the Indian government to meet five of his demands. He avoided consuming food or water for the next 11 days and became a martyr on September 26. He is remembered and hailed by the Tamil people as Thiyaga Theepan.

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