Sri Lanka: Armed squad storms Tamil newspaper

An armed squad stormed the main office of Uthayan, a Tamil language daily newspaper published in the city of Jaffna in Sri Lanka's north, At 4.45am on April 13. The attackers set fire to the printing presses and copies of the paper that were ready for distribution.

The Tamilnet website said the squad was believed to be operated by Sri Lankan military intelligence. Jaffna, like other Tamil areas, is under military rule.

The attack is the fourth this year against Uthayan, which is owned by Tamil National Alliance (TNA) member of parliament E. Saravanapavan.

The attacks on the Tamil press are part of the pattern of repression against the Tamil people since the military victory of the Sri Lankan government in its war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. The LTTE were fighting for an independent Tamil homeland in the north and east of the island of Sri Lanka.

Tamils have been arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act for small gestures of defiance, such as lighting a candle in memory of those who died fighting for independence.

But on top of such “legal” repression, Tamils have been murdered, abducted, tortured and raped by Sri Lankan government forces without any pretense of legality.

Many Tamils displaced from their homes during the war are still unable to return as their land has been occupied by military bases.

The Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commisssion (LLRC), appointed by the Sri Lankan government to avert the possibility of an international war crimes investigation, recommended the resettlement of displaced people on their own land, and ending military control of civil affairs in the Tamil areas.

However the government has not acted on these recommendations. Instead it has continued with military rule to facilitate its policy of Sinhalese colonisation of Tamil areas.

On March 21, the United Nations Human Rights Council called for the implementation of the LLRC recommendations. But so far there is no indication of any change in government policy.

Many Tamils see the LLRC recommendations as totally inadequate, both because the LLRC let the government off the hook over its war crimes, and because it did not recognise the right of Tamils to self-determination.

Other Tamils see the LLRC recommendations, despite their inadequacy, as a way of bringing some improvement in the current terrible situation of Tamils living under military occupation. The TNA, the electoral representative of Tamils in Sri Lanka’s parliament, takes this view.

Some progressive forces in the predominantly Sinhalese south of Sri Lanka also call for implementation of the LLRC recommendations.

Vickramabahu Karunarathne, general secretary of the NSSP (New Socialist Party), says it is necessary to “mobilise all democratic forces to press for its implementation … We must combine the demands for the eradication of poverty, corruption and misery with that for the implementation of the LLRC recommendations.”

Meanwhile, many Tamils around the world are campaigning for a boycott of this year’s Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, which is due to be held in Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka.