As Tamils in the homeland travelled to the Mullivaikal memorial site to commemorate Tamil Genocide Remembrance Day, People for Equality and Relief in Lanka (PEARL) documented the proliferation of Sri Lankan military checkpoints at key locations, situated along roads leading to the site.
PEARL tweeted earlier today,
“Tamils right to memorialization is continuously suppressed by the Sri Lankan state, with arbitrary court orders and especially surveillance, intimidation and harassment by security forces. Unimpeded memorialization has been one of the fundamental demands of the Tamils.”
On May 18, there were reports that there was some easing of the checkpoints, but several reports emerged of Tamils outside of Mullativu being questioned on where they are travelling to.
The U.S.-based advocacy group reported that heavily armed Sri Lankan soldiers, and at times, the police and army, remain stationed at the checkpoints. The officials frequently stopped and interrogated Tamils on the way to the memorial site. Some Tamil civilians were asked to register with security officials at the checkpoint, undergo a search of their personal belongings, or open their boots. Signs and barriers directing travellers were almost exclusively written in Sinhala and English.
Soldiers were stationed at a number of locations across the Mullaitivu region, including in sentries within civilian areas, while also occupying the established checkpoints. The measures come as part of a series of systematic military efforts undertaken by the Sri Lankan regime to advance Sinhala-Buddhist colonization and fortify their occupation of the Tamil homeland
A report released jointly by PEARL and the Adayaalam Centre for Policy Research (ACPR), Normalising the Abnormal: The Militarisation of Mullaitivu, determined that at least 60,000 Sri Lankan Army troops are currently stationed in Mullaitivu District; 25% of the approximately 243,000 active military personnel on the island. It is estimated that there is now at least 1 soldier for every 2 civilians in Mullaitivu District.
The omnipresent militarisation poses chilling consequences for freedom of assembly, mobility, speech and thought, as Tamil civilians fear for the safety of themselves and their families.
“The government’s security concerns allegedly motivates the military’s overwhelming presence throughout the North-East including in Mullaitivu. However, its encroachment into all facets of civilian life (economic, political, and otherwise) reflects the Sri Lankan state’s more insidious goal: the further breakdown of the island’s Tamil communities” - Normalising the Abnormal: The Militarisation of Mullaitivu