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Sri Lankan court bans Maaveerar Naal commemorations in Mullaitivu

File photo: Sri Lankan police officers intimidate Tamils who were preparing to mark Maaveerar Naal in 2018.

A court in Mullaitivu has banned the commemoration of Maaveerar Naal – an annual day of remembrance to mark the lives lost during the Tamil armed struggle – following a request from the Sri Lankan security forces.

Sri Lankan police under the Mullaitivu Division filed a case in the Mankulam Court seeking an injunction against the holding of Maaveerar Naal events in areas under their jurisdiction.

Mullaitivu Magistrate R. Saravanaraja complied with the police request, which named 12 activists and politicians from across Tamil parties, and has barred any commemorative events from taking place.

The 12 people that the police identified included the head of the Association of Relatives of Disappeared Persons in Mullaitivu Mariyasuresh Eswary, Tamil National People’s Front MPs Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam and Selvarasa Kajendran, former Northern Provincial Council members Thurairasa Ravikaran and M. K. Shivajilingam, former Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MP Sivapragasam Sivamohan  and Ilankai Tamil Arasu Katchi (ITAK) activist Peter Ilancheliyan amongst others.

Peter Ilanchezhiyan looks on as dozens of Sri Lankan soldiers surrounded his home as he prepared to commemorate his brother on Maaveerar Naal in Mullaitivu last year.

Maaveerar Naal is held each year on 27 November, the date on which the first LTTE cadre, Lt. Shankar was martyred in 1982. In previous years the event was marked with large scale ceremonies held in cemeteries (Thuyilum Illam or Resting Places) that were built across the North-East, housing thousands of fallen fighters.

Since a 2009 Sri Lankan military offensive that killed tens of thousands of Tamils and its subsequent occupation, the cemeteries have all been destroyed and public events were clamped down on by the security forces. In 2017 and 2018 Tamils defied state intimidation which persisted despite a relative easing of securitisation of such remembrance events to held larger scale ceremonies. Recent years however have seen a renewed crackdown.

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