Coronavirus detention centres in North-East spark fears for local health systems

The Sri Lankan military has begun quarantining foreign arrivals in detention centres hundreds of miles away from Colombo and in the Tamil North-East, as part of moves to tackle the spread of the coronavirus despite public health concerns and Tamil opposition. In Vavuniya, the Sri Lankan army began quarantining arrivals from abroad by sending them to the Pampaimadu Army Camp.

Arrests in Batticaloa after protest over coronavirus patient transfer

At least six people have been arrested by Sri Lanka’s Special Task Force earlier today after locals protested against the transfer of a patient suspected of having coronavirus to the Batticaloa Teaching Hospital. The 47-year-old patient had reportedly been staying at a hotel in Colombo with tourists from China before he fell unwell and was receiving treatment at Kaluvanchikudy before he required a transfer to the main teaching hospital. Sri Lankan security forces stepped up their presence in the already heavily militarised town following the protest.

Sri Lanka’s elections to go ahead despite coronavirus threat

Sri Lanka’s Election Commission said preparations for parliamentary elections that are scheduled next month are continuing, despite rising numbers of COVID-19 coronavirus cases on the island. Commission member S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole told the Daily Mirror that the election schedule is based on Sri Lanka’s Parliamentary Elections Act and the date was set in motion by a presidential proclamation. “To postpone the election, only the President can act by revoking his proclamation and issuing a new one,” Hoole said. Meanwhile, The Island quoted Election Commission sources as saying it was “...

Sri Lankan army teaches ‘reconciliation’ to Afghanistan

The commander of the Sri Lankan security forces in Jaffna met with Afghanistan’s ambassador this week, where the two reportedly discussed “nation-building and reconciliation efforts”. The meeting comes despite Sri Lankan troops counting to occupy large swathes of land across the Tamil North-East and reports of ongoing human rights abuses. Tens of thousands of Tamil civilians were killed in a Sri Lankan offensive more than a decade ago, which saw Colombo militarily defeat the LTTE. Hospitals were shelled and surrendering Tamils were killed in the violence, which saw mass atrocities that have...

Calm urged in North-East as crowds line up at petrol stations

Queues were seen across petrol stations in the North-East today, as locals sought to stock up on essential goods in light of the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. Supermarkets and other stores across the region were unusually busy, as shoppers flocked with news that the number of coronavirus cases on the island has risen.

Sri Lanka blocks travel abroad for employment as coronavirus measures expand

Sri Lanka’s Bureau of Foreign Employment announced that it would be barring all travel abroad for employment, as the state enforced more restrictions in light of the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. The announcement comes after the government said it was suspending its visa on arrival system for all foreign arrivals. The Sri Lankan military is running two detention centres it has constructed, with the war crimes accused head of the army Shavendra Silva, calling on the public to “confide” in the army. Anyone travelling from Italy, Iran or South Korea will be quarantined for 14 days, the...

Sri Lankan army disrupts ceremony to commemorate Tamil war dead

Armed Sri Lankan soldiers questioned a Tamil journalist and intimidated locals as they gathered to mark 11 years since the massacres of thousands of Tamil civilians in Mullivaikkal this week. Hindu priests alongside the locals from Batticaloa came together on March 8, to carry out religious rituals at Mullivaikkal beach. Tens of thousands of Tamil civilians were killed by Sri Lankan military shelling on the beach more than a decade ago. However, soon after rituals began, armed Sri Lankan soldiers arrived at the scene. The troops questioned Tamil journalist and Mullaitivu correspondent for the...

Sri Lanka army uses elections as cover to ramp up security in North-East

The Sri Lankan military has acknowledged the stepping up of security operations in both Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu, claiming that it is aimed at preventing “election violence”.

US report on Sri Lanka highlights ‘significant human rights issues’

The US State Department’s 2019 Country Report on Human Rights Practices in Sri Lanka highlighted a range of concerns this week, from unlawful killings and torture by government agents to the unjustified arrests of journalists and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons. Amongst the issues raised by the State Department was the harassment of Tamil journalists in the North-East, including of Tamil Guardian correspondents.

Tamil man in hospital after being beaten unconscious by Sri Lankan police

A Tamil man has been admitted to Jaffna General Hospital after he was arrested by Sri Lankan police and found beaten unconscious on Wednesday. The man, identified as Victor Sunthar of Mambalam junction, Ariyalai, was only admitted into hospital after an intervention from a Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka officer, who accompanied his wife as she attempted to get him released from custody. Sunthar was arrested for an alleged assault in Kalvuyangad that took place on December 4. His wife had returned home from work to find that her house doors were locked and told that her husband had been...