By Asiri Fernando
Jaffna Mayor Visvalingam Manivannan who was arrested for allegedly promoting pro-LTTE symbols yesterday was later granted bail by the Jaffna Magistrate’s Court.
He was moved to Vavuniya for questioning and to record a statement, according to Public Security Minister Rear Admiral (Retd.) Sarath Weerasekara.
Manivannan was arrested by the Jaffna Police and subsequently handed over to the Terrorism Investigation Division (TID) in relation to employing five persons and providing them with a uniform, which the Police allege is similar to what was worn by the former Police division of the now defunct LTTE.
According to Weerasekara, Manivannan was moved to Vavuniya to record a statement. “He is under arrest, we want to know what his aim was. He is being questioned by the TID, they will record a statement by him. We need to see what the investigations will bring out. The Police will decide what course of action is necessary following the investigation.”
The suspect had been arrested under the provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), Police spokesman, DIG Ajith Rohana said. “A group of persons were observed working in uniform in and around Jaffna several days ago. The uniforms worn were similar to the uniforms worn by the so-called LTTE-Police, during the time Jaffna was occupied by the terrorist. This prompted the Police to investigate and found that the persons were employed by the Jaffna Municipal Council.”
“Statements were recorded from a number of people, including members of the Municipal Council. The Police found that the persons in uniforms were recruited and employed by the Mayor of Jaffna. This act is a promotion of symbols and uniforms of the LTTE and is an offence under the PTA,” DIG Rohana explained.
The arrest sparked criticism by Opposition political parties and civil organisation. The United National Party condemned the move and calling for the Government to present clear evidence regarding the allegation.
“Arrest of Jaffna Mayor is worrisome. Having strong rule of law (with judicial safeguards) is a better way to fight terrorism while protecting everyone’s basic freedom,” tweeted US Ambassador Alaina Teplitz.