Strike in Sri Lanka’s north over killings

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Sri Lankans went on strike across the is­land’s north yes­ter­day as anger mounted over the po­lice killing of two Tamil univer­sity stu­dents at a check­point. Shops, banks and other of­fices were closed across the war-rav­aged Jaffna penin­sula and public trans­port was halted in protest against the shoot­ings last week. “The en­tire prov­ince is par­a­lyzed by the 12-hour work stop­page which started this morn­ing,” Tamil politi­cian Eswara­p­atham Sar­a­vana­pa­van, who rep­re­sents Jaffna dis­trict said. “Only a few pri­vate ve­hi­cles and se­cu­rity ser­vices are on the road.”

Of­fi­cials in the north­ern prov­ince’s four other dis­tricts said schools were also forced to shut af­ter stu­dents stayed away, while many work­ers also failed to show up at government of­fices. Po­lice ini­tially re­ported the stu­dents, aged 23 and 24, died in a mo­tor­cy­cle ac­ci­dent, but later said they were shot and died last Thurs­day night af­ter they failed to stop at a check­point. Sar­a­vana­pa­van said the strike was the largest in Jaffna since the end of the war in 2009 be­tween the mil­i­tary and rebels fight­ing for a sep­a­rate home­land for the eth­nic Tamil mi­nor­ity.

The shoot­ings have hiked ten­sions in the north where Tamil res­i­dents suf­fered years of ha­rass­ment from the eth­nic Sin­halese-dom­i­nated mil­i­tary be­fore and dur­ing the decades-long con­flict. Government forces still main­tain a large pres­ence in the for­mer-war zone and keep a close watch on the Tamil pop­u­la­tion, seven years af­ter the end of the war. Po­lice in­spec­tor gen­eral Pu­jith Jaya­sun­dara said five officers have been sus­pended and re­manded in cus­tody pend­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the shoot­ings.

“We have taken dis­ci­plinary ac­tion even be­fore the protest,” Jaya­sun­dara told re­porters. “We are also in­ves­ti­gat­ing why they tried to cover up the in­ci­dent.” Sar­a­vana­pa­van, a law­maker from the op­po­si­tion Tamil Na­tional Al­liance, said they wanted as­sur­ances of jus­tice for the two stu­dents. He said there were se­ri­ous doubts about the po­lice ver­sion of events. An au­topsy re­port showed the rider had been shot in the chest, in­di­cat­ing he had been killed while ap­proach­ing the check­point and not while flee­ing with­out stop­ping, Sar­a­vana­pa­van said. The in­ci­dent comes af­ter a UN hu­man rights ex­pert asked Colombo this week to take ur­gent mea­sures to “clearly demon­strate” its com­mit­ment to pro­tect its mi­nori­ties. — AFP

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