2nd Lead (Adds details)

Youths arrested for putting up posters against power project

[TamilNet, Saturday, 24 September 2005, 12:42 GMT]
Five upcountry Tamil youths were arrested by the Nuwera Eliya police on Friday night at 11.30 pm for putting up posters on the conference to be held against the Upper Kotmale Power Project by the Peoples' Campaign at Talawakele Kathiresan Temple Hall on Sunday. The youths were produced in court Saturday and Nuwara Eliya acting Magistrate Ramraj remanded the youths till September 27, legal sources in Nuwara Eliya said.

Leader of UPF and parliamentarian Periyasamy Chandrasekaran in an urgent fax sent to the Deputy Minister of Defense, Mr Ratinasiri Wickremenayake protested the arrest and said: "the police actions under the Emergency Regulations undermines freedom of speech and is an ominous sign of deteriorating democracy.

"The incident serves as a precedent to the anti-democratic actions the Government of Sri Lanka is intending to take during the forthcoming presidential elections under the pretext of Emergency Regulations," Chandrasekaran added.

Attorney E.Thambiah who was appearing for the five youth argued that they were not doing anything illegal and the court must release them.

Officer-in Charge of the Nuwara Eliya police K.Sumith told the courts that the posters they were putting up in Pattana town were illegal as those posters did not have the name of the press where they were printed.

Upper Kotmale is a 150 MW plant hydropower project proposed by Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) which is a Government Agency responsible for generation of electricity in Sri Lanka during the UNP government in 1987. Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the project was submitted for approval of the Ministry of Irrigation Power and Energy in December 1994 and Central Environmental Authority was the concurrent agency. The project was approved in 1998.

Several rallies and protest marches have been held in several parts of the upcountry against the project.

A large section of Upcountry Tamils contend that the project is environmentally hazardous to the region and several thousand upcountry plantation workers would be displaced by the project.

Many believe that there is also a sinister motive behind the Upper Kotmale project. "Talawakelle is the bedrock of upcountry Tamils activism. By dissecting the Tamil dominated region, the ruling Governments of Sri Lanka plan to bring Talawakelle under Sinhala dominance thereby preventing the rising activism and self-assertion of upcountry Tamils," some protesters earlier told TamilNet.


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