Rape protest shuts down North and East

[TamilNet, Friday, 06 July 2001, 09:47 GMT]
Shops, schools, offices, courts and banks were closed and streets were mostly deserted in Sri Lanka's northern province, in the Tamil, Muslim majority areas of the eastern province and in the Tamil towns of the central province Friday in response to a call for a general shut down by the alliance of eleven Tamil parties and by Tamil trade unions to protest against the rape of Tamil women by Sri Lankan security forces. The Tamil parties held a protest demonstration in downtown Colombo Friday.

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Karupahia Rajeshwari shouts slogans against violence and sexual harassment of Tamil women by military and police officers during a demonstration in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Friday.Photo: AP
More than two thousand Tamil and Muslim protestors led by an alliance of eleven political parties and trade unions demonstrated in front of Sri LankaĖs main railway station in Fort in downtown Colombo Friday afternoon against the rape of Tamil women in the capital and in the north and east. Several leaders of the alliance addressed the protest.

Mr. V. Anandasangaree MP (Jaffna), Mr. Mavai Senathirajah MP (Jaffna), Mr. Pon Selvarajah MP (Batticaloa), Mr. Joseph Pararajasingham MP (Batticaloa) and Mr. N. Raviraj, the Mayor of Jaffna represented the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) at the demonstration. Mr. Dharmalingam Sidtharthan, leader of the People's Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE), Mr. Selvam Adaikalanathan MP for Vanni and the leader of the Tamil Eelam Liberation Organisation (TELO), Mr. M.S Sellasamy MP, leader of the Ceylon National Workers' Congress, Mr. P. Chandrasekeran MP, the leader of the Upcountry PeopleĖs Front, Mr. Mano Ganeshan, leader of the Democratic WorkersĖ Congress, Mr. V. Thirunavukarasu of the New Left Front and Mr. Mujiboor Rahman, leader of the Muslim Democratic Front took part in the demonstration at Fort Friday afternoon.

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More than two thousand Tamil and Muslim protestors led by an alliance of eleven political parties and trade unions demonstrated in front of Sri Lankažs main railway station in Fort in downtown Colombo Friday (Photo:TamilNet


The towns of Jaffna, Vavuniya, Mannar, Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Kalmunai were mostly deserted. "The 'Hartal' is the first unified protest by Tamil parties in all parts of the north and east and in the central province in twenty years," a spokesman for the Tamil Alliance told Tamilnet. Mr.T. Mahasivam, General Secretary of the Ceylon Tamil Teachers Union said, "over nine hundred thousand students and more than twenty thousand teachers and principals boycotted schools in protest".

Tamils say that the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and the Emergency Regulations (which lapsed on Wednesday) promote rape and torture of Tamils by security forces as these laws are designed basically to protect the perpetrators and indefinitely delay and obfuscate legal procedures to bring culprits in the armed forces to book.

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"The Hartal is a first step to reassert the Tamil people's self respect and dignity which successive regimes in Colombo have tried to destroy with draconian laws and terror campaigns in the north and east," said a spokesman for the Eastern University's student council.

"The increasing incidence of torture, and particularly the rape of Tamil women by the security forces plus the obvious reluctance of the government to take prompt and decisive action clearly shows that it is part of a systematic effort to break the political will and self respect of the Tamil people and to make them passively submit to the dictates of Sinhala hegemony," Selvam Adaikalanathan, MP for the Vanni and the leader of the Tamil Eelam Liberation Organisation, Friday speaking to the press about the Hartal.

In Trincomalee, capital of northeast province, all shops owned by Tamils and Muslims were closed down. Tamil and Muslim schools did not function as teachers, principals and students boycotted. Offices of northeast provincial council, urban council and co-operative union were closed due to boycott by its employees. Some Sinhala government servants were seen working in the Trincomalee District Secretariat. Bus services were curtailed to minimum as few passengers were seen in the main bus stand. The strength of the Police personnel in the bus stand was doubled due to the Hartal.

The Police announced over loud hailers to open all shops and assured protection to shops opened at their request. But the shop owners, Tamils and Muslims, did not take notice of the appeal. All roads were deserted. Shops belonging to Sinhalese business were open in Trincomalee town. But business was nil. The police intensified their patrolling. Road checks were stepped up.

In Jaffna, the Sri Lankan army increased patrolling and stepped up security in the town. Jaffna students continued the boycott of classed for the third day in protest against one of their colleagues. The Eastern and Jaffna University students called on the Tamil parties to express their solidarity with the protest, student union sources told Tamilnet.

Tires were burnt on the roads in some parts of the Batticaloa district by protestors. Black flags were flown in some of the deserted Tamil towns of the central province, Ceylon Workers' Congress sources told Tamilnet.

"The success of this Hartal will show the Sri Lankan government and the international community that the Tamil people will stand together to struggle for their legitimate rights; that prolonged and unmitigated intimidation and systematic terror cannot make them submit or yield," said a spokesman for the Tamil Alliance. (Photo: Trincomalee town, Friday)

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