By Ranjith Padmasiri and S. Rubatheesan
In the North and East, courts have issued orders preventing any form of commemorative events to mark the ‘Maveerar Naal’ or Great Heroes’ Day, a day declared by Liberation of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to remember its cadres who died in the near-three-decade separatist war.
On Thursday, the Jaffna Magistrate’s Court issued an order after Kopay and Jaffna Police moved motions separately seeking to stop preparations by Tamil political parties and civil society groups in cemeteries where LTTE cadres had been buried.
Taking into consideration detailed submissions made by Senior Additional Solicitor General Harippriya Jayasundara, the Court banned any collective commemorative events in public on the basis that they would pose a health risk in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In Mallakam, Chavakachcheri, Trincomalee, Mannar, Vavuniya, Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu and Batticaloa, courts issued similar orders this week.
Police named 51 persons in these cases as respondents after filing separate B reports. The courts were told that the military and police intelligence services had reported that plans were underway to hold public gatherings and commemorative meetings across the Northern Province from November 21-27.
The Senior Additional Solicitor General told court that allowing such events would pose a grave threat to national security and violate the Prevention of Terrorism Act.
ASG Jayasundara also argued allowing these events might lead to disharmony among communities violating clauses 3 (1, 2) of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Sri Lanka is also a signatory. The Magistrate Court was urged to ban any such gatherings under clause 106 of the Code of Criminal Procedure which allows the Court to issue orders to prevent any gathering that would become a public nuisance.
She also submitted that with the COVID-19 precautionary measures currently in effect, there was a possibility that people from overseas could enter into the country illegally to attend these events and this could pose a severe health threat to the people.
At the end her submissions, ASG Jayasundara expressed regrets and apologised to the Court for the insensitive remark made by Jaffna HQI last week on ‘pittu and pizza’ comparison which drew criticism in local dailies and in social media platforms.
“The poor choice of words expressed by him would have hurt the feelings of people in Jaffna and the lawyers,” she said while removing her facemask. Jaffna HQI Prasath Fernando who was presented in the Court also apologised.
The respondents’ lawyers said that remembering loved ones who were killed in the separatist war was the basic right of the Tamil people, while revealing that some of their own relatives were among those who fought for the Tamil cause. Senior lawyer N. Srikantha charged that the Government was using Courts to issue such bans by citing Section 106 of the Criminal Procedure Code relating to public nuisance.
Mr Srikantha told Court that he had the right to remember one of his close relatives who died in the war and reiterated that dead people could not be considered as members of an organisation which was defeated militarily a decade ago.
Along with Mr. Srikantha, Attorney V. Thirukkumaran and K. Sukash appeared for other respondents.
Maveerar Naal at home
As courts issued orders banning collective commemorative events to remember the war dead, some Northern people observed Maveerar Day or Great Heroes Day on Friday in their homes.
On Friday evening, they lit oil lamps and candles in front of the portraits of their family members who were killed in the war. Some families marked the day with planting coconut seedlings in their gardens.
Police arrested a Catholic priest attached to St Martin’s seminary in Jaffna for organising a low key memorial in the seminary premises.
Police said Fr. Paskaran was to be produced before courts yesterday on charges of violating court orders and causing ethnic disharmony.
Meanwhile, in Eravur, four people were arrested for posting and sharing content on social media platforms to commemorate Maveerar Naal (Great Heroes Day), according to the police.