Pongu Thamil organisers receive death threats

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 17 June 2003, 13:13 GMT]
Organisers of a mass protest in Jaffna next week calling for the withdrawal of Sri Lankan troops from homes, schools and public places are facing death threats, student leaders said this week. There have also been attempts on the lives of some organisers of the ‘Pongu Thamil’ event scheduled for June 27, they said.

The head of the Students Association for the Jaffna University, Mr P Bahitharan, told reporters that some organisers are receiving threatening letters and phone calls.

Mr. S. Gajendiran, head of the International Students Association of Tamil Eelam, told reporters “there have been several attempts on the lives of some organisers.”

Residents are also being harassed by the Sri Lankan military personnel in various areas, in a bid to dissuade them from participating, he said.

In Chulipuram, Sri Lanka Army (SLA) soldiers had patrolled for ten hours intimidating residents. “The military seems to be trying its best to frighten off the people because they know large number of people will attend,” he said.

Despite the threats, the organisers have vowed to continue their work, the student leaders said.

The first Pongu Thamil event in Jaffna in January 2001 drew thousands of protestors, despite overt threats by the Sri Lanka Army. Troops threatened residents, arrested dozens of student activists and closed off roads leading to the Pongu Thamil event in Jaffna with barbed wire.

However, protestors scaled over the walls and found ways around the blocked streets to enter the grounds where the rally was staged. More than ten thousand people in Jaffna comprising university students, high-school students, residents and representatives and members of civil organisations, joined the protest urging the then Sri Lankan government to reciprocate the Liberation Tigers' unilateral ceasefire and to negotiate with the movement.

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