Today the Mullaitivu Magistrate granted an extension allowing the police to continue investigating whether any of the names on stones used for a May 18 memorial that was set up by local human rights activist, Father Elil Rajendram, are former LTTE cadres.
Objecting to the order, Father Elil’s lawyer, Mr. Guruparan Kumaravadivel, explained as he did on the day of the first motion that Father Elil gathered the names from the community with the intention of commemorating those who died during the last phase of the war, and that there is no way of Father Elil knowing whether any of those names belong to former LTTE cadres. He further argued that the police have produced no evidence since the order was first granted two weeks ago that any of the names on the stones are of former LTTE cadres, and further, that there is no legal basis in any event to find the memorial illegal even if some of the names on the stones are.
The police have alleged since they first brought the stay order for the commemoration on May 17 that they suspect some of the names on the memorial stones to be those of former LTTE cadres and that this poses a threat to national security. During the hearing about the extension today, police revealed that they still have no evidence that any of the names on the stones are of former LTTE cadres.
In today’s hearing, police also argued that any memorial in Sri Lanka should only be allowed if police first cleared names for the memorial. Police further tried to argue that names of former LTTE cadres on stones was prohibited under the PTA regulation, but this argument was not accepted by the Magistrate as the regulation only prohibits the use of the LTTE’s name and symbols in commemoration, not the names of former cadres with no indication of their LTTE membership.
Police also tried to argue that Father Elil was not cooperating with their investigation because he did not produce the addresses of those whose names are carved onto the stones. But Father Elil explained to the Magistrate that he does not have any of those addresses, since the names were given by the community and they did not register either the names of those who came forward to offer names for commemoration, or their addresses. Mr. Guruparan argued that since the police were alleging some of the names were of former LTTE cadres, the onus remained on them to prove that fact, and that the police nor the Magistrate should shift that onus to Father Elil.
Responding to concerns raised by Mr. Guruparan regarding ongoing surveillance and harassment of Father Elil by police, the Magistrate verbally directed police to refrain from summoning or contacting Father Elil. But the Magistrate then went on to say that the police could complete the investigation by other means and interview anyone else in relation to the investigation.
“We are now very worried that order may be used by police to harass/intimidate the Tamil community at large, particularly HRDs [human rights defenders],” stated the Adayaalam Centre for Policy Research in a tweet reacting to the extension of the order.
The extension continues the order until June 12th but Father Elil and his legal representatives plan to seek a revision at the Vavuniya High Court appealing the order before then.