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Mayor of Jaffna released on bail after arrest by Sri Lanka's Terrorism Investigation Division

UPDATED 1730 GMT

The Mayor of Jaffna, Viswalingam Manivannan, who was arrested by Sri Lanka's Terrorism Investigation Division (TID) at around 2.30am on Friday morning, was released on bail. Manivannan, was issued bail at the Jaffna Magistrates Court on Friday evening after paying a Rs. 2 Lakh payment. The Magistrates Court has filed the case under the Penal Code and not under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), despite being arrested and investigated by TID officers. 

Former Senior Lecturer in Law at University of Jaffna, Dr Kumaravadivel Guruparan questioned the validity of the reasoning used to carry out Manivannan's arrest. 

Manivannan, who is also an attorney-at-law, was arrested on charges of attempting to resurrect the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and taken to Vavuniya for 'further investigation'.

The arrest follows an investigation into the uniforms of a Jaffna Municipal Council task force which was launched this week to enforce penalties against environmental infractions such as littering and spitting. Sri Lankan police alleged that the uniforms worn by the task force were similar to those formerly worn by the LTTE's police force. 

The Jaffna Municipal Commissioner was summoned by police on Wednesday night and interrogated for around 3 hours regarding the uniforms. Police also told the Commissioner to halt the task force's duties and to hand over its uniforms, which the commissioner carried out the following day. Police said at the time that the uniforms and the remainder of the investigation would be handed over to Colombo.

At around 8pm on Thursday night, Manivannan, along with another council member, Varatharajah Partheepan, were summoned to the Jaffna police station. After a lengthy interrogation, the Mayor was handed over to the TID and arrested. Partheepan continued to be interrogated and was released around 3am.

Earlier on Thursday evening, Manivannan held a press conference to address the allegations, and explained that the uniforms were in fact the same as those worn by a similar task force ran by the Colombo Municipal Council. The Mayor said that the uniforms held no further connotations and that the police were making allegations based on social media conspiracy theories.

Arrest warrant issued to the Mayor of Jaffna, V. Manivannan

"I strongly condemn the arrest of Mayor of Jaffna V Manivannan by the Sri Lankan governmentt, and call for his immediate release," Canadian MP Gary Anandasangaree said on Twitter. "The continued harassment and arbitrary arrests of members of the Tamil community including elected officials, journalists & human rights defenders must end."

The Mayor of Toronto, John Tory and Mayor of Brampton, Patrick Brown also joined in calling for the release of the Jaffna Mayor.

"I join Gary in condemning the arrest of the Mayor of Jaffna by the Sri Lankan government. I echo the call for his immediate release. This continuing unjust treatment of Tamils is unacceptable," said John Tory on Twitter. "I urge others to join in this call and to stand in solidarity with our Tamil community."

Patrick Brown tweeted, "The arrest of #JaffnaMayor by the Sri Lankan gov seems to be a revenge tactic against the UNHRC for setting up an investigation against them. This is wrong, wrong, wrong. They should release all political prisoners & cooperate with the UN to ensure justice for the #TamilGenocide". 

Tamil National People's Front (TNPF) leader, Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam, said on Twitter that his party condemns the arrest and echoed calls for Mayor of Jaffna, V Manivannan's release. "The @TnpfOrg unreservedly condemns the arrest of Manivannan by the TID and calls for his immediate release. The severe racial and political insecurities of this regime have reached such heights that a steady path towards fascism is inevitable," tweeted Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam. 

Manivannan was represented by the Tamil National Alliance’s (TNA) spokesperson and lawyer, M.A Sumanthiran and 25 other supporting lawyers. Manivannan has insisted that he will pursue legal action against the police for his detention.

“If taking steps to uphold the cleanliness of the [district] is a mistake, we wil continue to make that mistake. Arresting me is disgusting and it disrespects the independence of the [Jaffna] Municipal Council,” said Manivannan. “They claimed I was attempting to recreate the LTTE with the uniforms. But the police have no authority to intervene in the independent activities of the Municipal Council. I am ready to fight a legal battle against the tyranny of the police, I will not allow tyranny of the police to exist.”  

The case has been adjourned until 26th June 2021. 

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