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Sri Lanka Air Force arrests ten Tamils for ‘violating COVID-19 restrictions’ as drone surveillance launches

An operation led by the Sri Lankan Air Force and the police, targeting locals by drone surveillance for allegedly not following COVID-19 guidelines in Jaffna, was launched today morning, with arrests reported to have taken place.

The intensive surveillance measure comes after the Sri Lankan military announced last year, the establishment of a new “Drone Regiment” to be deployed in parts of the island where the armed forces considered arresting those it claims have been breaking coronavirus lockdown regulations.

The operation has already led to the arrest of at least ten people in Jaffna, in the areas of Nallur, Kurunegala and Ariyalai. Jaffna police station’s Officer-in-charge, Prasad Fernando stated some were arrested for “standing on the road without wearing helmets” and others for “violating traffic restrictions”. 

Fernando added that some of those arrested had been released with a warning, while others have been told they will be facing legal actions. 

A police motorcycle unit was also established this morning, to immediately catch and arrest alleged violators of COVID-19 guidelines, within the area marked by the drones. 

Locals who were supposedly violating travel restrictions, not observing social distancing measures or wearing masks properly were all targeted by the operation. 

Over the last few days, the Sri Lankan military has escalated its intimidation and harassment of Tamils across the North-East, with numerous incidents reported during commemorating of Tamil Genocide Day (May 18), under the guise of maintaining coronavirus guidelines. The Tamil National People’s Front reported a surge in intimidation, surveillance and harassment of members and activists by the Sri Lanka security forces, this week. Journalists were also stopped and intimidated by military officers at checkpoints, despite presenting travel permits.

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