PTA-arguments of SL Police detaining Tamil student leaders baseless: Guruparan

[TamilNet, Monday, 06 May 2019, 19:42 GMT]
The SL Police, pursuing Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) based investigations against the president and the secretary of the Jaffna University Student Union (JUSU), was arguing that the student leaders were provoking racial and communal disharmony through the banners and other visual representations, which were apprehended by the SL Army at the JUSU office on Friday. The SL Government itself had admitted, through the act of co-sponsoring Resolution 30/1 at the UN Human Rights Council in 2015, that allegations of war crimes need to be investigated. How could the banners calling for justice for crimes committed during the war incite disharmony, questioned Attorney Guruparan Kumaravadivel who was representing the student leaders at the Magistrate’s Court in Jaffna on Monday.

Furthermore, the JUSU has been publicly making these demands for almost ten years. How could these publicly known demands cause disharmony all of a sudden now, Mr Guruparan asked.

Even according to the SL police, the seized material seemed to be five or six years old, Attorney Guruparan observed.

Jaffna Magistrate Peter Paul had remanded the two JUSU leaders until 16 May based on the application of the Koappaay Police on 03 May.

The magistrate is expected to rule on the matter on 08 May.

The detained student leaders were Sivarasa Babilraj, the president of the JUSU and Navaratnam Divaharan, the secretary of the JUSU.

JUSU leaders: Babilraj Sivarasa and Divaharan Navaratnam
JUSU leaders: Babilraj Sivarasa and Divaharan Navaratnam

The B-report filed by the SL Police stated that the photo of LTTE leader Velupillai Pirapaharan was found inside the office of the Jaffna University Student Union along with the banners calling for international investigations on genocide against the Tamils as well as investigations into war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The banners were also carrying images of Isaip-piriya and other civilians.

The sections referred to in the B-report include 2-1(f) and 2-1(h) of the Prevention of Terrorism Act, Mr Guruparan said.

PTA's 2-1(f) says that any person carrying, importing or manufacturing arms, ammunition and other [prohibited] article, could be apprehended under the PTA while 2-1(h) was providing for punishing those being in possession of any visuals, signs or representations that provoke racial or communal disharmony between the racial or ethnic or religious groups.

Guruparan argued that the application for remand, which was filed the SL Police in Koappaay was not valid as it was not signed by an officer equivalent or above the rank of Superintend of Police according to the clause 7.1 of the PTA itself.

Attorney and Jaffna University academic Guruparan Kumaravadivel
Attorney and academic Guruparan Kumaravadivel in discussion with the students at the University of Jaffna

The 2.1(f) could not be used as there was nothing in the range of firearm or ammunition found inside the JUSU office. The argument of 2.1(h) was also invalid as the possession of the photos and banners, used in open processions for years have been in the public sphere for years, even according to the B-report by the SL Police, could not be interpreted as causing racial or religious disharmony. Such an argument is baseless, the attorney said.

Guruparan said he had urged Jaffna Magistrate Peter Paul to release the president and the secretary of the Jaffna University Student Union as the application for remand was invalid or, if that was not the case, to consider releasing the students on bail given the unfounded nature of the claims of the SL Police.

Guruparan, a practising attorney interested in civil appellate litigation, administrative law and human rights law, is a Senior Lecturer attached to the Department of Law, University of Jaffna. Guruparan has also been involved in civil society activism and has authored statements and reports on the human rights situation prevailing in the North-East.



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