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Funeral of murdered Tamil man takes place amidst tightened military presence

The funeral of a Tamil man who was shot dead by the Sri Lankan army took place in Jaffna yesterday, as Sri Lankan security forces took out a court order banning all protests from taking place in the region.

Thiraviyam Ramalingham, a 24-year-old from Ketpeli, Point Pedro, was killed by the military on Saturday evening. Details have emerged suggesting that the military killed Ramalingham as they apprehended him over reported illegal sand mining. He was reportedly with four others at the time, when the military approached and opened fire.

After being shot, he was taken to Palai Divisional Hospital, with witnesses at the scene stating that a doctor was not brought to treat him for at least 45 minutes. It is not yet known whether Ramalingham died at the scene or in hospital.

His murder led to protests outside the hospital, where angry relatives and locals gathered, demanding those responsible be apprehended and brought to justice. The killing has sparked outrage across the Tamil homeland, with even Northern Province Governor M. S. Charles calling for an investigation into the killing.

The Sri Lankan security forces however took out a court order this week banning all protests in the region as Ramalingham’s funeral took place.

Sri Lankan security forces have repeatedly killed Tamils in the North-East in recent years, claiming that the murders have occurred as they apprehended illegal sand miners. Though the problem of sand mining continues to grow across the North-East, Tamil groups say the police use the issue as a guise to target and surveillance communities, accusing police departments of taking bribes to protect actual perpetrators. In 2017, Yogarasa Thines, an unarmed 24-year-old Tamil man, was shot dead by police in Vadamarachchi during a purported confrontation about sand mining.

In recent months, though there has been increased militarisation across the North-East, there have been increasing reports of Sri Lankan state violence – including Tamils being murdered.