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Thileepan commemorated in Tamil homeland despite Sri Lankan crackdown

Despite crackdowns by the Sri Lankan state across the Tamil homeland, several Tamil politicians and civil society members held private memorials for Lt Col Thileepan on Sunday, the 34th anniversary of his passing following his twelve day fast-unto-death.

Students at the University of Jaffna defied threats and held a vigil at an undisclosed location on campus.

A J Peter Ilancheliyan, a prominent member of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) reported that his home in Mullaitivu had been under constant police and military surveillance. On Saturday police officers, including the Mullaitivu station chief, arrived at Ilancheliyan’s home with a court injunction addressed to his father, the late former deputy chair of the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) Anton Jeyanathan.

“I told them to deliver the injunction to my father at the Unnapilavu Catholic Cemetery,” Ilancheliyan said, and proceeded to pay tribute at his home on Sunday.

Sri Lankan police and intelligence officers also surrounded the office of former NPC member M K Sivajilingam in Valvettithurai, as he lit a flame and held a vigil inside.

In Kilinochchi, a memorial was held by the TNA MP Sivagnanam Shritharan.

Paying tribute with his family, Valikamam East divisional council chair Thiyagaraja Nirosh said “we have a right to remember.”

In Mannar, civil society leader V S Sivakaran led a memorial, despite Mannar police applying for an injunction against him on Friday. Locals reported that police and Sri Lankan army troops patrolled parts of the town to prevent residents gathering to carry out commemorations. 

The Tamil National People’s Front (TNPF) held an online commemoration, with tributes and memorial speeches, including from the party’s leader Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam MP, and Selvarajah Kajendran MP whose arrest by Sri Lankan police last week caused international outrage.

Families of the disappeared in Vavuniya also paid tribute to Thileepan at the site of their continuous protest.

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