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Sri Lankan army locks down Mullaitivu on eve of Tamil Genocide commemorations

The Sri Lankan army has blocked all roads leading to Mullivaikkal after it announced the imposing of a lockdown on Mullaitivu earlier today, just hours before Tamil Genocide Day commemorations were due to take place in the district.

Despite the relative lack of coronavirus cases in Mullaitivu, Sri Lanka’s war crimes accused army commander declared at least three regions in the district under lockdown over what it claims to be a spike in COVID-19.

The announcement came just hours after Tamil lawyers had successfully beaten back efforts by the security forces to halt memorial events at a court in Mullaitivu, as the district judge T Satgunaraja allowed an appeal to hold remembrance events in accordance with COVID-19 guidelines. Earlier in the month, several Police stations in the Mullaitivu District had obtained a court order barring several Tamils, including two MPs from carrying out Mullivaikkal commemorations.

“The Police did not provide any evidence either from the district health officer or the Public Health authorities to suggest the possibility of the spread of Covid-19 infection at the venue,” said the Tamil National People’s Front Nadaraja Kandeepan, who spoke to reporters outside of the court earlier today.

“I lost my father-in-law during the war and have a right to mourn him and pay homage,’ added Jaffna lawyer Sugas Kanagaratnam. “What authority does the police have to say not to do so and stop me from doing it”.

Shortly after the court ruling however, the Sri Lanka security forces continued to block Tamil access to Mullivaikkal, the final scene of a military offensive 12 years ago that saw tens of thousands of Tamils massacred.

Within hours, the military-enforced lockdown was announced.

The latest move from the military comes in the midst of a crackdown on attempted commemorations of the genocide, and just days after a memorial at Mullivaikkal was destroyed by the army.

Tamils in Mullaitivu are still expected to mark the anniversary privately in homes across the district, alongside other events across the island and around the world. With arrets of Tamils rising in recent months however, many fear what the military may attempt tomorrow.

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