SLFP organiser in Jaffna shot dead

[TamilNet, Saturday, 04 October 1997, 23:59 GMT]
The SLFP organiser for the Jaffna district, Mr. S.T Tharmalingam was shot dead at his home in Columbuthurai, a suburb of Jaffna town, last night at 8.45 p.m. Sources in Jaffna said that Mr. Tharmalingam was found dead after he was summoned from his house by some unidentified persons.

His home is located next to the Sri Lankan military camp at Colombuthurai. The incident took place a few hours after he had returned home from work at the Sri Lanka Freedom party's branch office in the Jaffna town.

The SLFP organiser had been directed last week by the PA government to organize the Thawalama programme in the peninsula. The 'Thawalama' (which in the Sinhala language means a caravan of bullock carts) was launched in August to propagate the PA regime's latest slogan 'One country, one people'.

The slogan has drawn fire from all shades of Tamil opinion as well as from a section of Sinhala liberal opinion for exacerbating the ideological-cultural sensitivities of the Tamils.

"The slogan is a fresh attempt to subsume and crush out the Tamil cultural-political identity" said a Tamil academic at a seminar held in the east recently.

The SLFP organiser, Mr. Tarmalingam was asked by the government to coordinate the activities of the Sudu Nelum (White Lotus) movement and propaganda meetings by Sinhala officials from the Ministry of Justice in Colombo with the assistance of the Sri Lankan army.

The Sudu Nelum movement is an official arm of the SLFP. It now looks after, among other things, the welfare of Sinhala soldiers. This organization was sent to Jaffna soon after the army occupied parts of the Valigamam sector of the peninsula.

The work of the Sudu Nelum came to a halt late last year after its organiser was shot dead in Jaffna town.

Since August, the government has sent Sinhala officials from the ministry of justice to explain to Tamils, herded by the Sri Lankan army for 'pocket meetings', the government's position on the ethnic conflict, in various parts of the peninsula currently occupied by the Sri Lankan armed forces.

At one of these meetings, organized by the army at Kodikamam in the Thenmaradchi division of the peninsula, some members of the Tamil public boldly suggested to the justice ministry officials that the government should pass law to ban the Buddhist clergy from interfering or taking part in politics.

The response of Mr.Paranawithana, the permanent secretary to the Ministry of constitutional affairs, to this suggestion was revealing, said one of the participants. Mr. Paranawithana held that the Bikkhus had an inalienable right to do so and that no government had the right to block it.

Despite such subtle or veiled reactions from the Tamil public the PA and its lackeys believe that they can get a solid foothold for the SLFP in Jaffna, whatever the human cost.

The Chandrika regime has been attempting to completely erase all Tamil political representation from the peninsula from early 1996. As a result of this even some completely marginalised Tamil groups which had thrown in their lot with the Sinhala army, were precluded from opening political offices in Jaffna last year.

The Chandrika regime was hopeful that it could monopolize the rigging of future elections in Jaffna with the Sri Lankan army's assistance (the manner in which the elections were flagrantly rigged at the last general elections in 1994 has been amply recorded).

The government's project was instigated and boosted by a few Tamil intellectuals who had backed Chandrika's campaign in 1994. These intellectuals who are based in Colombo have secured lucrative positions in the PA government since then.

And they have promoted the regime's cause by arguing at meetings organized by the Sri Lankan army in Jaffna that the Tamil people have to join the mainstream Sinhala political parties to realise their basic aspirations.

Several international organizations have noted with regret their continuing role in some important human rights organizations based in Colombo.

Mr. S.T Tharmalingam was persuaded into joining the Sri Lanka Freedom Party by two of these intellectuals who have played an important role in the army's civilian pacification program in the captured areas of the Jaffna peninsula since April 1996.

An SLFP office was opened under the Sri Lankan army's auspices in the Jaffna town in August.

And since then the two Tamil activists who also work with an NGO in Colombo have been holding propaganda meetings in Jaffna schools and at the University of Jaffna to explain the Chandrika regime's position and to impress upon Tamil students that all the problems faced today by Tamils today were caused by the Liberation Tigers.

This was given wide publicity by the Sri Lankan state owned television and radio.

However, a senior trade union activist in Jaffna whose wife and child had been blown up in an artillery barrage by the Sri Lankan army, wryly observed that (LTTE leader) Pirabakaran was born two years after the Sinhala flag had been proclaimed the national flag of Sri Lanka, against vehement protests by the Tamils at that time.

The Sri Lanka freedom party, for which Mr. S.T Tharmalingam worked, was established by the President Chandrika Kumaranatunga's father Mr. SWRD Bandaranaike in 1951.

The party introduced the Sinhala only act in 1956 and a Sinhala Buddhist constitution in 1972 which were responsible for precipitating state violence against the Tamils on a large scale.


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