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Sri Lanka's Teachers' Association condemns investigation into Tamil national flower decoration at school sports competition

The Sri Lankan Teachers' Association vice president Theepan Thileesan has condemned the investigation and surveillance by Sri Lanka's security forces over a decoration that replicated the Tamil national flower at a school sports competition. 

Over the weekend, a decorative battle tank and a karthigai poo - the Tamil national flower - was put on display at Thellipalai Union College's sports competition. Sri Lanka's military and police visited the school premises where they took photographs and videos of the displays.  The senior management of the school was also instructed to visit the police station where a statement was recorded from the principal. 

“Intimidation by police, military and government officials in connection with the activities such as decorations during athletics meets in schools, particularly in the North-East, are violations of the student's fundamental right to freedom of expression,” he said in a statement. 

He added that the legal framework provides for the expression of societal issues and ideologies through artistic and symbolic forms, however, they are concentrated attempts to squash these rights by the state machinery. 

“If the Departments of Education were to go along with this, educational activities in the North-East would have to be conducted under instructions from the military and Sri Lankan police,” he said. 

“It is the position of the Sri Lankan Teachers' Association that the intervention of the Northern Province Education Department along with the police in these matters violates the basic rights of the students,” he said. “We will file a complaint with the Sri Lankan Human Rights Commission and we request them to conduct an investigation and take necessary action.”

The militarisation of the North-East has penetrated everyday civilian life, including their presence in the education sector. Although the Sri Lankan miltary stands accused of the most egregious human rights abuses, they regularly interact with schools in the North-East in the form of gift giving, cleaning schools, construction, training and sports. 

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