COLOMBO: Tamil majority areas in the Northern and Eastern Provinces of Sri Lanka observed a complete hartal on Friday,demanding Presidential pardon for 217 Tamils detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) for suspected involvement with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
Tamil National Alliance (TNA) leader and former MP, Suresh Premachandran, told Express that shops and schools were closed and public buses did not run.
Northern Province Chief Minister, C.V.Wigneswaran, accompanied by four of his ministers, met President Maithripala Sirisena here on Thursday to press him to give the prisoners a general amnesty just as the Janatha Vimukthi Permuna (JVP) detainees were pardoned after the 1989 insurrection in South Sri Lanka was crushed. Sixty seven JVP cadre were released.
Wigneswaran told the media later, that while the President agreed that the Tamil detainees should also be released, he had to be mindful of some “political difficulties”. The opposition Mahinda Rajapaksa group would exploit the issue saying that Sirisena had released “hard core Tamil terrorists”.
However, the President did assure Wigneswaran that he would announce a decision next Monday. Given the hope held out by Sirisena, Wigneswaran appealed to the prisoners to give up their indefinite fast. Nineteen of the fasting prisoners have had to be hospitalized so far.
The Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) leader, A.Anandasangaree, has written to the President asking him to send the detainees to rehabilitation camps and release them after rehabilitation, just as 12,000 LTTE cadre were put through rehab after the war and released later.
The Minister of National Dialogue, Mano Ganeshan, said that the prisoners will be out on bail in due course. “Apart from the 31 now allowed to go on bail, the cases of another 25 are being processed. Under the earlier regime, this was not done. Fasting Tamils prisoners were attacked and four were killed in 2011-2012. Conditions have changed for the better,” he said.
Meanwhile, TNA leader Premachandran pointed out that of the 31 prisoners to be released on bail earlier this week, not all are Tamils. Four of them are Sinhalese. Tamils also complain that the bail conditions are too tough. Each person will have to submit two bonds each of LKR 10 lakh; he has to report to the Terrorist Investigation Department in Colombo every other Sunday; and he cannot leave the country. With no one coming forward to furnish the bonds, the “released” persons are still in jail.