(Police patrolling Vavuniya)
Sri Lankan police have attempted to break the hartal being carried out across the North-East by threatening and intimidating participants into reopening their stores.
The current day-long shutdown is the most wide-spread protest in Sri Lanka since Rajapaksa took power last year. Tamils have been joined by Muslims and others across the region as they protested Sri Lankan attempts to ban the commemoration of those who gave their lives for Tamil rights and ongoing intimidation.
In Achuveli, Jaffna police and army personnel congregated in front of a bus stand at Achuveli junction. Military officials and investigators were also present in their vehicles. Sri Lanka’s security forces threatened participants of the hartal that if they did not reopen, they would be arrested.
A member of the Vali East Pradeshiya Sabha (a provincial government body), Nirosh, met with the victims and was subsequently threatened by Sri Lanka’s military forces.
Speaking to reporters he said;
“When the deputy governor and I went and talked to the shop owners, they said they had been threatened by the police and military investigators to open the shops themselves. Army dignitaries who arrived in a Pajero-type vehicle disrupted the front and rear of my vehicle several times and took videos in front of Achuveli Central College. This is something that threatens me like a dictator”.
“Even now there is a tense situation here. The military is monitoring the situation with the help of shops. Achuveli police threatened to arrest you. I told the police that I would ask the shopkeepers in person if they were threatened and the shops were left open. Some shops have been opened here due to military threat.”
In the Mullaitivu district, Sri Lankan police and investigators were seen in Mallavi calling and threatening shop owners, demanding that they reopen their stores.
One of Tamil Guardian’s Mullaitivu reporters notes a significant rise in intimidation and harassment from the Sri Lankan security forces, which has sharply stepped up its presence in the region.
“The number of checkpoints in Mullaitivu has steadily increased over the past few months,” our correspondent said. “There is a real sense of fear that the army can shoot you and get away with it. People are voicing their opposition to their presence.”
Sri Lankan security personal was also seen entering Vavuniya's Bazar today and ordering for stores to be reopened using loudspeakers.
வவுனியாவில் கடைகளைத் திறக்குமாறு பொலிஸ் அறிவித்தல்!
அச்சுறுத்தல்களை தாண்டி ஹர்த்தால் அனுஸ்டித்த தமிழ் மக்கள்! pic.twitter.com/XhicdVftC8
— Ravi Shangaran (@ShangaranRavi) September 28, 2020
The video shows police using a loudspeaker to say:
'A request to shop owners from Vavuniya police. We humbly request you to open your shops.'
Despite this, staff and owners defied their orders and did not open their shops. Tamil and Muslim businessmen in Vavuniya are fully cooperating in the wide-scale hartal.
More to follow.