The number of arrests in connection with gang violence in Jaffna that police have reported do not match up with court registrar records in the district, giving rise to further criticism by local civil society that security forces are using the ruse of heightened criminal activity to justify a heavy police and military presence in the run up to Maaveerar Naal.
Last week, the police spokesperson Ruwan Gunawardene said that 41 individuals had been arrested in relation with gang violence and sword attacks. Later, Jaffna District’s Assistant Deputy Inspector General of Police stated that 81 had been arrested so far in recent crackdowns on gang violence.
However enquiries made by Tamil Guardian with courts in the district indicate that only 20 have been produced before courts on the mentioned charges.
This month, 16 have been presented to the Jaffna Magistrates Court of which 14 were granted bail and 2 were remanded.
Of 4 people presented at Mallakam, one was already party to an ongoing trial. The other 3 were remanded.
Other than Jaffna and Mallakam, enquiries with the registrars at Chavakachcheri, Point Pedro and Kayts returned no records of suspects produced on charges related to gang violence or sword attacks.
While arrests and court appearances based on road violations and other minor infractions have continued at a normal rate, there are no court records to substantiate the police officials’ claims of dozens of gang violence related arrests.
“It is certainly not a coincidence that these so-called sword attacks spike again in the month when Tamils are organising and attending remembrance events,” a Jaffna-based senior journalist told Tamil Guardian.
“Announcing Special Task Force patrols, police officers having their leave cancelled and now fabricating huge numbers of arrests all demonstrate that the police are deliberately trying to scare Tamils off observing Maaveerar Naal,” the journalist said.
The revelations reiterate civil society and local concerns that Sri Lankan security forces and police are engaging in a campaign of intimidation and fear-mongering in the run-up to Maaveerar Naal.