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Jaffna comes to a standstill over political prisoners

jailBy Manekshaw

JAFFNA: The entire Jaffna Peninsula was crippled on Nov 12 due to the boycott in support of demanding the release of all Tamil political prisoners. Tamil political parties irrespective of their differences and various civil society organizations participated in the boycott (hartal) which resulted in the closure of business establishments and schools in the North.

Nearly 270 Tami political prisoners put behind bars in various prisons throughout the country launched a fast unto death demanding their release last month.

One week later they had given up their fast on the assurance given by President Mithripala Sirisena stating that he would sort out their problem before 7 November.

The assurance given by the President to the Tamil prisoners was also conveyed to them in person by the Leader of the Opposition and Tamil National Alliance (TNA) Leader R. Sampanthan.

TNA Parliamentarian M.A. Sumanthiran also went along with Sampanthan to the Magazine Prison in Colombo and readout the President’s assurance which was released in the form of a statement.

However, only 31 prisoners including four Sinhalese were released on bail on Wednesday.

As only 27 Tamil prisoners were released with tough bail conditions, their fellow Tamil prisoners who were in detention launched the hunger strike six days ago demanding their release.

According to former TNA Parliamentarian Suresh K. Premachandran, 15 of the Tamil prisoners who were fasting for the past six days have been admitted to hospital by the prison officials as their health condition deteriorated.

So with the Tamil political prisoners resuming their hunger strike with the mass support from Jaffna Peninsula by political parties as well as the civil society organizations, the TNA Leader R. Sampanthan is reported to be under medical treatment in New Delhi and his confidante M.A Sumanthiran is in Australia engaging in meetings with prominent Australians.

As R. Sampanthan and M.A. Sumanthiran who had conveyed President Sirisena’s assurance to the Tamil prisoners on dealing with their release, were out of the Island, when the crisis situation emerged with regard to the release of all Tamil political prisoners, M.A. Sumanthiran came under severe protest in Home Bush, Sydney for not being present in Colombo and working on the release of all Tamil political prisoners.

Home Bush incident

At a special meeting arranged by the TNA supporters in Sydney, a group of young Tamil expatriates had shouted slogans against the TNA saying it was playing to the tune of the government leaders.

Sumanthiran was interrupted and he was not allowed to speak at the Home Bush gathering by the young Lankan Tamil expatriates.

They had even questioned Sumanthiran on agreeing to a domestic legal mechanism on investigating the alleged war crimes by the Sri Lankan Government.

As the situation aggravated, the organizers of the event sought police assistance to oust the young Tamil men who were interrupting the speech made by Sumanthiran.

During his stay in Australia, Sumanthiran in an interview with the Sydney Broadcasting Service (SBS) had come down hard on the Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran and pointed out that the Chief Minister should be removed from his position.

SBS interview

Sumanthiran in his lengthy interview with the SBS mentioned about Wigneswaran keeping himself away from campaigning for the TNA candidates, at the parliamentary election, last August.

Branding Wigneswaran as not loyal to the TNA, Sumanthiran had even pointed out that the Chief Minister was reluctant to travel to Canada on the request made by the TNA leadership to raise funds for the election activities.

According to Sumanthiran, he had travelled to Canada along with his Leader R. Sampanthan to collect funds for the Northern Provincial Council poll.

Sumanthiran also told the SBS that Wigneswaran who refused to go to Canada with a lame excuse during the parliamentary polls campaign period had travelled to the USA and UK ridiculing the TNA leadership.

As C.V. Wigneswaran has been appreciated by several expatriate Tamils for his unwavering stance in calling for an international investigation into the alleged war crimes, Sampanthan and Sumanthiran have been viewed by certain section of Sri Lankan Tamils abroad as well as in the North and the East as the Tamil politicians who were trying to cover up the alleged war crimes issue and also soft pedaling the matter of releasing the Tamil political prisoners in connivance with the Sri Lankan leaders.

Wiggy’s politics

As far as the political entry of Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran is concerned, R. Sampanthan and M.A. Sumanthiran were in the forefront to field him as the Chief Ministerial candidate at the Northern Provincial Council poll two years ago.

Wigneswaran had even said at a recent meeting in Jaffna that after his retirement from the Supreme Court, he was happy engaging in his spiritual activities, and it was on the insistence of the TNA politicians that he entered politics.

A couple of weeks ago Deputy Chairman of Committees in Parliament, Selvam Adaikalanathan, who is a TNA Parliamentarian from the Vanni District, came under attack by a group of angry young Tamil men in Paris, because of the recent attitude of the TNA in the North and East politics.

Paris problem

Following the skirmish in Paris, Selvam Adaikalanathan and those who accompanied him from Sri Lanka had to be escorted, outside the auditorium where they held a meeting, by French policemen.

The incidents in Paris and Sydney have highlighted the internal ‘brawls’ which remain within the TNA.

Former leader of the Ilankai Tamil Arasu Katchchi (ITAK) and an academic Prof. K. Sittampalam in an interview with the Ceylon Today a couple of days ago regretted the conflict situation within the TNA and also pointed out that the ITAK leadership was conducting itself in a highly irresponsible manner.

At a recent meeting of the constituent parties of the TNA in Colombo, the ITAK leadership was told to take decisions collectively with the consent of other parties in the Alliance.

With the core issues such as the international investigation into the alleged war crimes and the call for the release of Tamil political prisoners, have taken the centre stage in the North and East politics along with the issues with regard to the disappeared persons and resettling of the Internally Displaced Persons and the rift which is in its early stages within the TNA has reflected at Home Bush, Sydney with the Australian cops coming for the rescue of M.A. Sumanthiran. – From Ceylon Today

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