Sri Lanka

The predominantly Tamil northern province of Sri Lanka was at a “complete standstill” on October 13, according to Tamilnet. All public and private businesses were shut down.

The strike was called by 20 grassroots movements to demand the unconditional release of all Tamil political prisoners.

Protesters blocked the A9 highway, and blockaded the secretariat of the Colombo-appointed governor of the Northern Province.

The next day protesters with black flags confronted Sri Lankan president Maithripala Sirisena who was visiting a school in Jaffna.

Students and staff of Jaffna University rallied on October 4 in support of three Tamil prisoners who are on hunger strike.

The prisoners are accused of having been members of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, which fought for an independent Tamil homeland in the north and east of the island of Sri Lanka, until defeated in May 2009. The Sri Lankan government’s victory was accompanied by a genocidal massacre of tens of thousands of Tamil civilians.

Tamils and Muslims in Manaar, a town in the north of Sri Lanka, rallied on September 5 in solidarity with the Rohingya people of Myanmar. Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have been forced to flee Myanmar in recent weeks due to military attacks.

Many Tamils and Muslims see similarities between the situations in Sri Lanka and Myanmar. In both countries, Buddhism is the dominant religion and Buddhist monks have helped incite hatred against religious and ethnic minorities.

The predominantly Tamil north and east of the island of Sri Lanka were brought to a “complete standstill” on April 27, Tamilnet reported, as a result of a strike called by unions, civil groups and Tamil political parties.

It was supported by the Northern Provincial Council, which suspended its sitting. In some towns Muslims joined Tamils in the strike.

For more than two months, displaced Tamils have been camped outside a military base at Keappa-Pulavu in northern Sri Lanka. They are demanding the return of their land, which was taken over by the Sri Lankan armed forces.

On April 24, Tamilnet said the Sri Lankan military has offered to return 30 acres of the 482 acres originally taken, while also giving the displaced people 90 acres of jungle.

Protestor Arumugam Velauthapillai responded: “We are not prepared to give up the protest until all our lands are released.” 

Protesters have been camping outside a Sri Lankan Air Force base since January 31 at Keappaapulavu on the north-eastern coast of the island of Sri Lanka.

Women are playing a leading role in the protest. They are demanding the return of their land, which was taken away to create a military zone. 

The Keappaapulavu base is one of many military bases built throughout the north and east of the island. After the defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, who had been fighting for an independent Tamil homeland, Tamil areas are under what amounts to a military occupation.

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.

A union leader, M Sujeewa Mangala, was found blindfolded and dumped by the roadside on February 1, three days after being abducted by unknown armed men.

Mangala, the vice-president of the All-Ceylon Telecommunication Employees Union, has been playing a leading role in the struggle of temporary workers at Sri Lanka Telecom (SLT) for permanency. The workers are classified as “temporary” even though some have been working at SLT for more than a decade.

Uprooted Tamil families from Keappaa-pulavu in the predominantly Tamil north-east province of Mullaiththeevu have accused the Sri Lankan military of genocide for depriving them of their land.

Following a series of protests by Tamils, who face systematic discrimination and oppression, Sri Lankan President Maithiripala Sirisena was supposed to release 234 acres of lands to Tamil families last month as a temporary measure.

A trade union leader who has been in the forefront of industrial action for more than a month against Sri Lanka’s main telecommunications provider has gone missing after court orders banning protests led by his union.

The wife of M Sujeewa Mangala, the vice-president of the All Ceylon Telecommunication Employees’ Union, has lodged a complaint at a police station in the Colombo suburbs that her husband did not come home on December 29 as expected.

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