After hearing a successful appeal from the TNPF (Tamil National People’s Front), the Jaffna magistrate has lifted the quarantine order against Gajen Ponnambalam, President of the TNPF, and 10 others.
This decision was reached after lawyers appealed quarantine orders which would have prevented party officials from observing Mullivaikkal remembrance events as they were ordered to remain in quarantine.
The TNPF maintained that under the Gazette’s notice, only “proper authorities”, i.e medical officers and public health officials not the police. TNPF legal representatives maintained that the police have no power or basis to seek a quarantine order. The Jaffna magistrate agreed with this claim stating that police could not have issued the order without input from public health officials.
Despite this many politicians, activists and remembrance organise have found themselves threatened by the police and under strict surveillance.
Whilst Gajen Ponnambalam was in court 10 police officers visited his house and demanded to know from his wife, why he had left. This is despite his quarantine order not being served yet. Similarly, the wife of V Parthipan, a member of the Jaffna Municipal Council, was visited by the police and they attempted to force her to come to the police station as Parthipan was not home.
Pradeshiya Sabha, a member of the TNPF, was threatened that the army will shoot her if she lights lamps to commemorate Tamil genocide day.
TNPF legal representatives illustrated to the courts that they were abiding by appropriate social distancing guidelines with photographic evidence.
Dr Kumaravadivel Guruparan, a senior law lecturer and Jaffna University and spokesman for the Tamil Civil Society Forum, commented on the matter:
“All these years the police used public nuisance provisions in the Criminal Procedure Code to seek bans on commemorative events. This time it's COVID19. The state constantly innovates”.