A collection of organisations, under the banner of ‘North and East Civil Society Organisations’ conducted a three-day walk from 3 to 6 February, from Pottuvil in the Ampara District to Polihandi in the Jaffna District.
The objective of the ”Pottuvil (in East )to Poligandy (in North)” was to gather all the Tamil speaking people of the North and the East, including the Muslims, and upcountry Tamils, for the walk, to show that they were united for a cause common to them all.
The list of reasons mentioned in a letter for the protests are as follows.
1) Continuing land grab in Tamil areas and converting Tamils’ traditional and historical places into Sinhalese areas by establishing Buddhist temples after destroying Hindu temples. As of now around 200 Hindu temples were affected;
2) Muslims who died due to COVID are cremated against the wishes of the families and against Islamic teachings;
3) Tamils in the Upcountry have been urging for pay raise of Rs 1,000, but the Government is not responding to their demands;
4) Since the war ended 10 years ago, militarisation of Tamil areas is continuing and Tamils’ historical identity is destroyed with the aim to change demography in favour of Sinhalese, using different Government Departments, especially Archaeological Department. Also, Government sponsored Sinhalese settlements are continuing;
5) Tamil cattle owners are facing numerous problems, where their gracing areas are being occupied by Sinhalese and their cows killed.
6) PTA which has been used to imprison Tamil youths without charge or trial for over 40 years, are now being used against Muslims.
7) Tamil political prisoners have been imprisoned for years without trial. The Government has pardoned Sinhalese on a regular basis, but none of the Tamil political prisoners were pardoned.
8) Families of the enforced disappeared have been protesting to find their loved ones, but the Government refuses to give them an answer.
9) Tamils have been denied the Right to ‘Remember’ their war dead, as demonstrated by denying remembrance events, destruction of cemeteries of the war dead and demolition of memorials.
10) Government is targeting Tamil journalists who cover these abuses and Tamil Civil Society activists who protest these abuses.
The ”Pottuvil (in East )to Poligandy (in North)” walk was organised by a collection of ‘civil society’ organisations, which are based in North, East and Upcountry.
Police around North and East got Magistrate’s Courts to issue Orders preventing this walk saying that ”gathering of people given the health crisis currently prevailing in the country” but the protesters walked-on, disregarding all these Court Orders. Interestingly the Police gave permission to people to participate in the Independence Day celebrations organised by the Sri Lanka Freedom Party in Jaffna. Why is double standard used by the police one to Government supporters and another to protesters?
So far, the UNHRC has conducted 45 sessions. From 22 February until 19 March the Council will conduct its 46th session. Sri Lanka has already rejected the allegations listed by the HR High Commissioner. It is expected that this year’s session will be heated when it comes to the report prepared by the Office of UN High Commissioner on Human Rights.