Tamils - a Trans State Nation..

"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Home > Tamils - a Trans State Nation > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Indictment against Sri Lanka > Sri Lanka's Shadow War '02 to '07: Introduction & Index > the Record Speaks....

The Charge is Ethnic Cleansing

Sri Lanka's Undeclared War on Eelam Tamils
...in the Shadow of the Ceasefire: 2002 - 2007

  • Despite Peace Talks, Tamils remain detained without trial
    Sinhala Journalist Champika Liyanaarachchi reported in One World South Asia, 28 July 2003

COLOMBO, July 28 (OneWorld) - After this month's release of two Tamil undertrials imprisoned for 11 years without trial, calls for the repeal of the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), under which they were detained, are getting shriller in Sri Lanka.

Despite the ceasefire, although the Sri Lankan government has released hundreds of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels arrested under the Act, suspects continue to rot in jail without trial.

The two Tamils, S. Lingharatna, 33, and T. Sivakandarajan, 31, both from the eastern Batticoloa district, were picked up by the army in 1992 and thrown into prison without any specific charges.

In 1995 the Colombo-based Home for Human Rights filed a Habeas Corpus and the Attorney General's office promised to hear the case before the end of the year. But nothing of that sort happened.

The two were granted bail early this month after 11 years in detention, on the arguments of prominent Tamil human rights lawyer, Casinathan Sivapalan.

Lingharatna, whose wife was pregnant with their first child when he was taken away, was finally united with the family. His son is now 11 years old.

"Justice delayed is justice denied. This is just one case. There are around 50 more people languishing in jail without any charges against them and there are no moves by the government to expedite the judicial process," points out Casinathan.

When the United National Front government came to power in December 2001, 600 LTTE suspects were detained under the PTA. Some of them were in detention for ten years without being produced before a magistrate.

But with the signing of the ceasefire agreement 17 months ago, the government expedited the judicial process and the number of PTA detainees has fallen below 50. Most of them are housed in the Kalutara prison in the Western province.

"Tamil members of Parliament (MPs) and human rights groups were lobbying for the Act's repeal for long. But despite its promises, the government has done nothing to show that it is keen on it," says an MP of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), A. Vinayagamoorthy.

Vinayagamoorthy, who introduced a motion in Parliament recently for the repeal of the PTA, says that the TNA - the main alliance of Tamil parties - hopes to meet senior leaders, including Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, to discuss the matter.

Introduced in 1979, the PTA was used to suppress uprisings in Sri Lanka's north and south. Ever since, there has been a strong lobby both locally as well as internationally for the repeal of the legislation.

In its 1984 report, the International Commission of Jurists commented on the PTA, "No legislation conferring even remotely comparable powers is in force in any other free democracy. Such a provision is an ugly blot on any civilized country."

Under the PTA, police officers are authorized to arrest suspects even without a warrant. The law was harshly used not only against the minority Tamils but also against the majority Sinhalese.

During the second uprising of Sinhala youth in the south in the late eighties, of the nearly 20,000 youth arbitrarily arrested by the security forces, a large percentage were arrested under PTA.

The law was also used as a tool to suppress political opponents.

Providing an amnesty umbrella for the remaining 50 won't be easy, though. "They are in jail for gross crimes like the assassination attempt on the President, attack on the Temple of Tooth Relic, and bomb attacks in which hundreds were killed. We cannot release them till they are proven innocent," says Defense Secretary Austin Fernando.

Fernando mentions that there is strong pressure from the LTTE and human rights groups for the release of these suspects. The LTTE has fought a war to establish an independent Eelam for the past 20 years.

"We have civilians serving long prison terms for lesser offences. So how can we release LTTE suspects charged with gross crimes just because the government has entered into talks?" asks Fernando.

But the legal officer of the Center for Human Rights and Development, Mudiappa Remedius, says there are several innocent people among the suspects.

"Seventeen months have passed since the signing of the ceasefire agreement and still we have people arrested under the PTA languishing in jail," he laments.

"There's no point talking big about peace if the discrimination in the judicial procedure is not removed. Peace does not mean absence of war but also normalization of public life and the right to life," argues Casinathan.

But Fernando will have none of it. "There's a general delay in the judicial process and everyone is affected by it. We cannot give special treatment to LTTE suspects. Everyone is equal before the law."

As the pro- and anti-PTA factions slug it out, the families of the likes of Lingharatna and Sivakandarajan continue to remain in a state of uncertainty about the chances of an early homecoming for their missing relatives.



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