Residents in Vavuniya called for the repeal of the Prevention of Terrorism Act, the release of political prisoners and accountability and justice for war crimes and crimes against humanity, stating that until these issues were resolved, Sri Lanka's Independence Day on February 4, would be a black day for the Tamils.
In a statement released on January 31, the Vavuniya Citizens Group and a civil society organisation from across the North-East called "Naangal" condemned the ongoing arrest of Tamils under the PTA and use of torture in detention camps, calling for a protest on February 3 to demand these issues be addressed.
"Sri Lanka is preparing to celebrate its 67th independence day. It is trying to show itself as a democratic country, that respects human rights as usual. However, whilst it appears to be paying attention in this matter, the ‘Prevention of Terrorism Act’ that is a threat to the independence and security of every life in Sri Lanka, and an act rejected by every nationality, has not been removed," the statement read.
"This act that is causing harm to and challenging civil society and peace, destroyed the lives of many youths regardless of their race, language and culture. This cruel law that gave ruthless power and authority to arrest anyone at any time, in any place was also used to arrest those who opposed corruption, those who questioned [the state] and activists that criticised social injustice," it added, stating that many youths arrested under the PTA were taken to detention camps and disappeared.
"War crimes and [human rights] violations are causing all of us to be ashamed and humiliated," the groups said, adding that until there was "accountability and arrangements made for remedial justice, [and] until all of the stains were removed, the country's 'Independence Day' will remain a black day".
If Sri Lanka wishes to identify itself as a country that respects human values, and follow human rights conventions, the groups said the ‘Prevention of Terrorism Act’ should be annulled without any delay; all political prisoners should be released; details of those detained in secret detention camps, as well as those tortured, killed and those who survived should be released to the public; details of detention camps still functioning should be released; there should be accountability for those who were abducted and made to disappear; justice and compensation must be provided to those suffered crimes against humanity.
The statement was signed by the groups chairmen across the North-East including: Selvaraja Pirathap from Jaffna district, Kalainathan Akilan in Kilinochchi district, N. Geethaponkalan in Mullaitivu district, K. Ketharan in Vavuniya district, C.Peter Nijakaran in Mannar, Vadamaalai Rajkumar in Trincomalee, Balasingham Muralitharan in Batticaloa and Sellathurai Gajenthiran from Amparai.