Sri Lanka: Protests over disappearances, land seizures

Protest by relatives of disappeared people. Jaffna, February 4.

Protests have hit the predominantly Tamil Northern Province of Sri Lanka in recent days.

On February 4, Tamilnet said 200 relatives of disappeared people gathered near the Jaffna District Secretariat building. Sivapatham Ilankothai told how her daughter and son-in-law and their three children disappeared after being taken away by the Sri Lankan Army on May 18, 2009. Many thousands of other Tamils have also disappeared in a similar way.

February 4 is Sri Lanka’s independence day. Northern Provincial Council member Kandiah Sarveswaran said that February 4 is a “black day” for Tamils, because they have been “ruled as a colonial people” by Colombo-based politicians from the Sinhalese ethnic majority since Sri Lanka became independent in 1948.

Protests also took place in other parts of northern Sri Lanka over the army’s continued occupation of land seized from Tamils. Tamil National Alliance parliamentarian Charles Nirmalanathan has said that the Sri Lankan military has seized 64,000 acres of land in the Northern Province.

On February 6, Tamil and Muslim traders in the town of Mullaiththeevu shut their shops in solidarity with protestors demanding the return of their land. Meanwhile, Tamilnet said that uprooted people from Puthukkudiyiruppu and their supporters “laid siege to the Divisional Secretariat”, setting up temporary huts outside the building.