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Shivajilingam acquitted by Colombo High Court over Thileepan commemoration

The Colombo High Court has acquitted Tamil politician M.K Shivajilingam who was facing charges for his role in organizing an event in Nallur to mark the 33rd commemoration of Lt. Col Thileepan's hunger strike. 

The case against Shivajilingam was filed under the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act which was used to argue that any commemoration or glorification of fallen LTTE cadres violates the constitution of Sri Lanka. 

When the case was taken up for hearing earlier in February, the defence raised preliminary objections stating that the Colombo High Court did not have Jurisdiction power to pursue the charges. Senior Attorney-at-Law K. S. Ratnavel, who appeared for Shivajilingam, raised an objection, stating that since there were contradictions between the extraordinary gazette notification issued on 29/08/2011 and the Main Act, accordingly, the case could not be filed in a High Court in the Western Province, and the case must be filed in a High Court in the relevant jurisdiction, so this court had no power to maintain these indictments against its client.

When the case was taken up yesterday, Shivajilingam was acquitted of all charges. It was the Attorney General’s department that filed the case in 2022 faulting Shivajilingam for violating the provision of the special gazette notification issued by Mahinda Rajapaksa which called for a ban on the LTTE and any commemorations linked to the same. 

At the time of Shivajilingam's arrest, decorations were also being put up in Nallur for the commemoration of Thileepan. Police in Koppay also removed the arrangements which were put up at the Jaffna University for the same memorial. The security forces had also obtained a ban on the commemoration from the Magistrate Court, claiming that “unnamed foreign citizens were planning to attend the event and hence a spread of COVID-19 was likely,” tweeted Jaffna-based lawyer R K Guruparan. 

“Police argued today that Thileepan was an LTTE leader and that the commemoration was to glorify the LTTE, which we denied,” he added. “Court refused to alter the order on the basis that as long as the PTA is there cannot commemorate fallen LTTE cadres.”

V Manivannan, attorney and former mayor of Jaffna, told Tamil Guardian that they had appealed to the court to grant permission to carry out remembrance activities which was denied by the Jaffna Magistrate Court. 

Multiple attempts have been made by the Sri Lankan state to suppress the commemoration of Lt. Col. Thileepan.

Thileepan, a revolutionary figure that led the Jaffna political wing of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam carried out a hunger strike to protest the ongoing atrocities perpetrated by the Indian Peace Keeping Force and highlight the Tamil people’s popular demands as to how power should be devolved to bring about the autonomy of the North-East. He began his hunger strike on September 15th, where he refused both food and water and died of a cardiac arrest on September 26th 1987, after 12 days of holding his fast.

Last year, a Sinhala mob attacked and destroyed a memorial float dedicated to Lt Col Thileepan as it travelled through Trincomalee.

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