University of Jaffna students stage hunger strike in solidarity with fasting prisoners. Photo: Tamilnet.com.
Fourteen Tamil prisoners have been on hunger strike since February 22. They are demanding the release of all Tamil political prisoners and prisoners of war.
Last year, there were several hunger strikes by Tamil prisoners that were called off after Tamil politicians claimed to have received assurances from government ministers that the prisoners would be released.
A few prisoners have subsequently been freed, but the government refuses to declare a general amnesty for Tamils accused of belonging to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
The LTTE was an organisation that, in response to decades of discrimination and repression against the Tamil people by successive Sri Lankan governments, fought for an independent Tamil state. The LTTE was defeated in 2009 when the government carried out a genocidal massacre of Tamils.
There have been rallies in Tamil towns supporting the hunger strikers. Father Mangalarajah, chairperson of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Catholic diocese of Jaffna, told one such rally that all Tamil prisoners of war and political prisoners should be released through a common amnesty based on a principled decision by the Sri Lankan state.