Police spies in the war affected Northern Sri Lanka have obstructed journalists carrying out their duty and intimidated Tamils remembering the dead.
Tamil people had assembled at the Oddusuddan Sivan Kovil in Mullaitivu district to observe fast to commemorate Rasaiah Parthipan widely known as Thileepan who fasted unto death 33 years back demanding the occupying Indian army vacate the Tamil homeland.
Despite efforts by the Government to stop the remembrance event people observed fast in various temples. As such Tamil people and politicians jointly organised a fast at the ‘Thanthondreeswarar Kovil’ in Oddusuddan.
A large posse of uniformed and civil clad police and intelligence personnel were deployed at the Temple with a view to intimidate and stop them from sharing their thoughts with the media on camera. The public said the presence of the Police and intelligence at a solemn event was not only menacing but seriously threatening in nature.
When the public expressed their feelings on camera the state police and intelligence started recording that on camera. Tense situation prevailed when the journalists and public appealed to them not to record the public interaction with the media.
Journalists explained to the police that the public would fear for their safety when they are video graphed as they share their thoughts with the media.
“People are afraid to speak to journalists when intelligence officers standing behind us are recording,” Senior Tamil Journalist Shanmugam Thavaseelan told a senior police officer in uniform.
The officer told that the police needs the recording to report of the event to his seniors.
Requests from journalists to allow them carry on reporting without hindrance was brushed aside by the police and the intelligence officers were adamant in continuing their recording which irked the journalists and threatened the public.
Fearing for their safety as the intelligence continued with their video recording, the public discontinued their fast mid day and moved away from the Temple premises and recorded their opinions with the media.
“We assembled here at the Oddusuddan Sivan Kovil to emotionally recall the death of Thileepan who sacrificed his life after fasting for 11 days without even consuming water,” said one attendee.
“Police and intelligence created trouble for us and we were unable to independently pay our homage to him. We were unable to share our thoughts with the media as the atmosphere there was much tense.”
While the government claim that media freedom is ensured under the new dispensation, the act of the Police and their intelligence unit amount to strangulating media freedom and intimidating the public and politicians.
Public say this incident is an example of intimidation with an iron fist and sending across the message that dissent will not be tolerated.
As the public dispersed few spoke to the local media who said the government ban on the remembrance is an attack on Tamil culture itself.
“The new government in power today has stopped us from remembering Thileepn who protested in a nonviolent way for the liberation of our Tamil Homeland in the North and East. Remembering the dead and praising those who fought for our liberation is part of our Tamil Culture. But the present government is behaving in a biased manner and stopping us from doing that.”
They demand that that right should be respected and be allowed to exercise their feelings without any state interference and intimidation. They also say their freedom of expression is threatened and in future in should be ensured that their rights are protected and they have the freedom to remember the dead.