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Sri Lankan state crackdown on Maaveerar Naal across Tamil homeland

The Sri Lankan state has intensified its crackdown on commemorations of Maaveerar Naal, the Tamil national remembrance day for fallen LTTE fighters, with police obtaining court injunctions against commemorations in several districts and both police and Sri Lankan army setting up roadblocks and checkpoints around LTTE cemeteries.

The Jaffna High Court on Friday rejected petitions against a number of injunctions, with the judge ruling that the court had no jurisdiction to issue such an order. The court however further stated that no one can prevent the petitioners from commemorating individually, but that collective commemoration was a matter related to national security.

Sri Lankan police spokesman Ajith Rohana said the verdict was "a historic decision and the police will take action to prevent any incidents commemorating the LTTE".

In the East, the Batticaloa court issued an injunction banning both the commemoration of Maaveerar Naal and the celebration of the LTTE leader's birthday in the district. Restraining orders were issued against give individuals including former TNA MP P Ariyanethiran. Kokkadichcholai police handed over the order to the former parliamentarian which prohibits him from lighting lamps and marking Maaveerar Naal at the Mavadi Munmari Thuyilum Illam. Eravur police had also obtained an injunction from the court, preventing a local group from carrying out commemoration activities.

In the North, the Mallakam Magistrate’s Court refused to issue an injunction against commemorations. In his order, the judge directed that public gatherings could be conducted with the permission of the relevant Divisional Medical Officer, as long as participants did not use banned symbols or flags according to Section 106 of the Penal Code, and did not violate current laws pertaining to the coronavirus pandemic. TNA MP M A Sumanthiran appeared among the legal team for the defence.

Despite the decision, Achuveli police filed a case seeking an injunction against Valikamam East divisional council chairperson Thiyagaraja Nirosh, which will be heard by the Mallakam court on Monday.

The Mullaitivu District Court has banned commemorations at the five Thuyilum Illams in the district and issued 41 restraining orders against politicians, community leaders and civil society members. Former Northern Provincial Council member, Thurairasa Ravikaran who was issued a restraining order by the court, said he believed the crackdown would be met with resistance by the Tamil people.

A roadblock at the Thangapuram Junction near the Alampil Thuyilum Illam in Mullaitivu was extended by the Sri Lankan army, affecting roads leading up to the cemetery. Locals who were engaged in clearing the resting place said that the army had also been trying to sabotage the clearing efforts by carrying out their own work near the site, as well as suddenly planting trees around the area.

The Kilinochchi Magistrate’s Court has placed an injunction on commemorations taking place at Kanagapuram, Theravil and Mulankavil and also issued restraining orders against TNA MP S Shritharan, and the chairperson of Karaichi divisional council. Roadblocks have also been set up by police and military near Thuyilum Illams across the district. Police spent Saturday morning constructing roadblocks on the roads around Kanagapuram Thuyilum Illam in Kilinochchi. Last year, around 15,000 gathered at Kanagapuram for Maaveerar Naal commemorations.

A roadblock was also put up at the entrance to Theravil Thuyilum Illam, with armed troops and police patrolling the surrounding roads, and an increase in surveillance by plainclothes intelligence in the area.

In Jaffna, Sri Lankan soldiers were deployed overnight to patrol the roads around Koppay Thuyilum Illam. Since a Sri Lankan army camp occupies the proper site of the cemetery, Maaveerar Naal commemorations have been held for the past four years on an adjacent, private land. Although the Jaffna Magistrate’s Court has not yet considered the application for an injunction against commemorations here, Sri Lankan police and soldiers have been patrolling the site.

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