SLA assaults Jaffna fishermen, 20 injured
[TamilNet, Wednesday, 22 October 2003, 14:41 GMT]
Sri Lanka army soldiers assaulted and injured twenty civilians, eight seriously, including two students, in Munai, a coastal village on the outskirts of Pt. Pedro town in Jaffna Wednesday afternoon. Troops were poured into the area following tension between army sentries on the beach and crowds of fisher folk over SLA sentries assaulting a young fishermen who sought permission to return home before the time stipulated by the SLA for beaching boats in Munai.
Soldiers seized the recording equipment of freelance journalist, Mr. Velupillai Thavachelvam, who was covering the incident.
Munai remains tense as troops have surrounded the coastal village are patrolling its neighbourhoods, according to residents who fled the area this afternoon fearing army action.
Mr. Alagaiah Muthukumaru, 40, Mr. K. Xavier, 23, Mr. T. Thiraviyam, 28, and two students, Mr. K. Jegathees, 18, and Mr. M. Newton, 17, were among those who were severely beaten up by SLA troops in Munai.
The problem began when soldiers at a sentry assaulted a young fisherman, Mr. Peter Maran, 23, who had returned to the Munai coast around 5 p.m. Wednesday as he had fever.
He had set out to sea earlier in the afternoon. According to SLA restrictions along the Jaffna seacoast, fishermen can return to shore only during the hours stipulated by the Sri Lanka army.
Hence, the SLA sentry in the micro breakwater at St. Thomas point in Munai had refused to let Mr. Maran beach his craft.
Residents said that Mr. Maran had duly registered his permit at the army sentry before setting out to sea for fishing. They said that soldiers at the sentry assaulted him when he argued with them that he was sick and had to go home.
Crowds of fisher folk gathered on the Munai beach shouting in anger when they saw soldiers attacking Mr. Maran.
Seeing the crowds soldiers at the St. Thomas point sentry and in the area around fired in the air while other troops beat up people on the Munai beach and village with batons.
Meanwhile, hearing of the incident, the Vadamaradchi Division Fishermen’s federation officials rushed to Munai.
Mr. Ratnam Thayaparan, a freelance journalist in Pt. Pedro who went to cover the incident, was threatened by soldiers beating up the crowds on Munai beach.
The clash stopped after the SLA officer in charge of the Munai area arrived on the scene and promised to hold an impartial inquiry at the St. Thomas’ Church in the presence of the journalist and the parish priest.
“We told the officer that our people have been putting up with such indiscriminate attacks and insulting behaviour by soldiers. How long can we tolerate such actions that are clearly aimed at demeaning our dignity as human beings? The army cannot expect our people to be silently meek all the time, ”, an official of the Vadamaradchi federation said.
However, troops from the SLA’s 52-4 Brigade in Pt. Pedro town poured into the village later in the evening, indiscriminately assaulting residents and patrolling the inner streets of Munai. The Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission visited the area around 6.30 p.m.