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Full coverage: SL army attack Ananthy Sasitharan's home

Election pamphlets destroyed during attack on Ananthy Sasitharan's house. Photograph CMEV

Less than two days before the Northern Provincial Council election, one of the most vocal and outspoken candidate of the Tamil National Alliance's electoral campaign, Ananthi Sasitharan narrowly escaped an attack at her home.

On the evening of 19th September, her home of Ananthy Sasitharan was surrounded by Sri Lankan army personnel and members of the government's paramilitary group, the EPDP.

An election monitor, who rushed to the scene after receiving a call from Ananthi, and was later injured during the attack, describes what happened next:

"At around 12.40 about 12-15 army personnel in uniform and two in civil [uniform] entered Ananthy's house with weapons. They broke open the doors and got about five of us to come out of the house and forced us to kneel down in a nearby field used for banana cultivation. The army personnel pointed guns from the behind and even loaded them.

I instantly remembered the scenes from the Channel 4 'Killing Fields' documentary and thought that we all were going to be murdered. They wanted to give us the worst possible fear of death.

For some reason they dropped that idea and started assaulting us. All this while I clearly told them in very simple English that I was a lawyer doing election work for a local election monitoring group (PAFFREL).

They kept beating us repeatedly with wooden poles saying "You all speak Tamil Nationalism? You all want the Northern Provincial Council. Take this" in broken Tamil...." [more]

See here for a further report on TamilNet, including a video statement by the independent election monitoring group, CaFFE, which also affirmed the army was responsible for the attack.

Jaffna Press Club tweeted:

See JPC's twitter account for more tweets.

The TNA MP M.A. Sumanthiran who promptly rushed to the scene along with the election monitors, later tweeted confirming that the "army carried out the attack".

Speaking to AFP news agency the following day, Ananthi Sasitharan said:

"My supporters took me to safety when about 70 armed men surrounded my house,"

 "They said they were looking for me and they wanted to kill me."

Speaking to Ananthi Sasitharan's supporters, currently admitted at Jaffna Teaching Hospital with injuries, The Hindu reported:

'According to her supporters, who were also being treated, the attackers made references to LTTE leader V. Prabhakaran, saying: “What he could not achieve in 25 years, you all want to achieve now? Are you asking for a separate state?” and reportedly beat them up. Some of the supporters seen at the hospital had injuries in the forehead, arms and legs.'

Photograph of one of those injured. Victim covers his face for fear of reprisal attacks. 

The Washington Post quoted Keerthi Tennakoon, of the Campaign for Free and Fair Elections, saying that 'the army soldiers entered Ananthi Sasitharan’s house late Thursday and attacked her supporters.'

The Sri Lankan Army's spokesperson Brig. Ruwan Wanigasooriya denies any army involvement, reports the Washington Post and Reuters.

The DailyMirror.lk quoted Wanigasooriya as saying:

This is a baseless allegation. The Security Forces have no involvement in this election-related violence. We do not condone such violent acts and regret that such preconceived allegations are made tarnishing the good image of the Security Forces that have contributed immensely to uplift the living standards of the war affected public while maintaining peace and stability in the region

According to the Sri Lankan newspaper, The Island, Vadukkuddai OIC Inspector S. A. C. Satharasinghe said 'according to the preliminary investigations, it was a staged incident to gain political mileage on the eve of the election'.

Responding swiftly to the attack, the US Embassy in Colombo called for the attack to be "transparently and independently investigated" and the attackers be brought to justice in a statement published the following morning.

The Canadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs also condemned acts of intimidation as "completely unacceptable" in a statement made the following day.

In a statement released on Friday, the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV), expressed concerns regarding that the involvement of military personnel and lethargic police response during the attack and released photographs of the incident.

Ananthi Sasitharan, activist and TNA candidate.

It was only two days before the attack that Ananthi Sasitharan had spoken to Tamil Guardian about the escalating militarisation taking place. Here are two poignantly prophetic comments from that interview - 'Life in the North-East: Interview with Ananthy Sasitharan':

"Our homeland is completely occupied by the military, so much so that the military presence seems larger than the actual Tamil population. At any event, the army is there. People are scared by the army presence, they live in a state of fear, too afraid to talk or do anything."

"During the time of the LTTE, women were actively involved in politics and administration. After the war, they are not even guaranteed personal security let alone the ability to think and act politically."


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