SLA intelligence said bullying Mannar farmers

[TamilNet, Friday, 24 January 2003, 16:16 GMT]
The Mannar Farmers' Federation said Friday that soldiers from the Sri Lanka army's intelligence unit in the district were harassing and threatening local cultivators and agrarian officials to dissuade them from attending public functions in which representatives of the political and development divisions of the Liberation Tigers take part.

"If the Sri Lanka army is sincere in its commitment to peace, it should encourage the Tigers in every manner to become part of public life here. Instead, the SLA's military intelligence unit personnel are going about harassing ordinary folk to prevent them from inviting the LTTE for public functions like this", Rev. Ruban Ariyanayagam, Superintendent of the Mannar Murunkan Circuit of the Methodist Church and the head of the Jeevothayam Farm and Refugee Welfare Centre, told TamilNet at the conclusion of a special Tamil harvest festival in Murunkan Friday.

On Thursday, two operatives from the military intelligence unit at the SLA's Thallady camp had and bullied farmers and officials decorating the Agrarian Services Centre in Semmanthivu in Murunkan for the Tamil harvest festival, questioning them regarding the participation of the LTTE's development division, Tamil Eelam Economic Development Organisation (TEEDOR), according to a spokesman for the Mannar Farmers' Federation.

"Government officials at the centre avoided taking the main road home after work yesterday, fearing further harassment by the military intelligence operatives", sources in Murunkan said.

The two operatives, known to the Mannar public as "Ranjith and Naseer"‚ question and badger civilians and government officials for taking part in functions attended by the LTTE, sources said.

Farmers and Sri Lankan government officials travelling through the SLA's Uyilankulam crossing between the LTTE held areas of Mannar and those sectors of the district controlled by the SLA are also subject to questioning and harassment, sources said.

Meanwhile, the special harvest festival jointly organised by the Farmers' Federation of Mannar and the Department of Agrarian Services Friday was held in Semmanthivu. The Government Agent for Mannar, Mr. V. Visvalingam was the chief guest.

Assistant Commissioner for Agrarian Services in Mannar, Ms. Annammah Stanley De Mel and the head of TEEDOR for the district, Mr. S. Sounther addressed the function. The head of the LTTE's political division in Mannar, Mr. Amirthaab, also spoke at the festival. He questioned the SLA's attitude against the LTTE's emerging role in the district‚s public life.

About four hundred persons took part in the function. "The turn out was low. The activities of the military intelligence has scared many people", an official of the Farmers' Federation said.


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