A Statement from Networking for Rights Sri Lanka forwarded by the Asian Human Rights Commission

SRI LANKA: The re-immergence of fear psychosis the Jaffna District

NfR expresses its serious concern about the deterioration of the law and order situation in the Northern Districts of Sri Lanka. The series of killings that have taken place during the last few weeks in the Jaffna Peninsula raises the question whether death squads have been reactivated in the Jaffna Peninsula. The latest in the series of killings is the cold blooded murder of 28 year old Ketheeswaran Thevarajah of Jaffna on 31st December 2010. This is the fifth such killing that has taken place in Jaffna within last two weeks. None of these killings have been seriously investigated or resolved, so far.

According to reports appearing in the news media Thevarajah, who was a postal worker in Vadamaraadchi, Jaffna, had been shot by armed men who entered the house where he was staying that night. He had later succumbed to the gun shot injuries.

There has been no other apparent reason for this killing of a civic conscious activist. Some news media has reported that the killers had asked him to open his page on the face book and shot him at point blank range.

Mr. Thevarajah, had posted photographs on his face book on the environmental damage caused by sand excavation in his village. According to news reports, he had provided reports to Jaffna media on the same issue. Looking at this matter in that context, it is obvious that this killing is also another in the series of killings to restrict the ‘freedom of expression’ in Sri Lanka.

Excavation of sand illegally from sand dunes in the Jaffna district by politically powerful persons had become a public issue recently. A few months ago there had been public protests over this matter. People alleged that a pro-government para military force of a political party is responsible for the illegal excavation of sand in the area.

Whatever the reason may be, it is clear that the killers were from an organized gang and were able to get away without any problems, after the shooting. The killing of Mr. Thevarajah, taken together with the other recent murders in that region, raises the question whether the much feared death squads are being reactivated in Jaffna to stifle dissenting civil voices and tightening the government’s control of the population of that area. Putting the blame on unknown persons as being responsible for such incidents cannot be accepted taking into consideration the fact that the Jaffna Peninsular is strictly under the control of the military. It appears that Jaffna is already engulfed in an evolving fear psychosis similar to what was in vogue during the infamous ‘period of terror’ (the beeshana samaya) in the South from about the middle of 1985 to 1995, when thousands Sinhala youth were abducted, killed or had disappeared under identical circumstances. This raises the second questi on, whether the creation of a fear psychosis has become the government’s strategy to keep the Tamil people under tight political control?

NfR would like to emphasize that such a strategy is bound to fail. We urge the government of Sri Lanka which has the Northern and Eastern Provinces firmly under its control, to take immediate steps to reassure the safety and security of the people living in those areas and restore the rule of law.

Issued by
Steering Committee, NfR Sri Lanka

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About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation that monitors human rights in Asia, documents violations and advocates for justice and institutional reform to ensure the protection and promotion of these rights. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.