Velanai committee begins inquiry

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 16 July 2002, 13:26 GMT]
The Sri Lankan government Committee of Inquiry tasked to investigate the assault on June 20 of two unarmed members of the Liberation Tigers’ political section, allegedly by naval personnel and Tamil paramilitaries, commenced its public sittings Tuesday morning at the Jaffna Secretariat. The committee has been appointed by Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Defence at the behest of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.

The Chairman of the Committee, Air Vice Marshall (Retd) Harry Gunatilake concluded the first day’s proceedings by making an appeal through local journalists for the public to come forward and provide relevant information with any relevant documents and photographs they possess.

During the incident under investigation, a group of navy personnel and masked men believed to be members of the Eelam Peoples Democratic Party (EPDP), a pro-government Tamil paramilitary group, had assaulted and attempted to abduct Mr. Semmanan, head of the LTTE’s political section in the islets off Jaffna, and Mr. Thayalan, a political activist of the LTTE.

In this regard, the statements of Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekara of the Sri Lanka Navy in Jaffna and the Assistant Superintendent of Police, Mr. K .B. Gajanayake were recorded on the first day. Committee sources said Mr. Semmanan and Mr. Thayalan are expected to give evidence Wednesday.

The committee is expected to hold sittings daily from July 16 to 19 at the Jaffna Secretariat to hear representations from members of the public who wish to co-operate with the investigation. Thereafter the committee will sit in Colombo for the same purpose at the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall from July 21 to 24.

Meanwhile, civil society organisations in the region last week continued their protests against persecution by the local Naval units.

Writing to the Sri Lankan Monitoring Mission (SLMM), the organisation for safeguarding the welfare of the islanders said: “the actions by the Navy in the islets off Jaffna disrupt the daily lives of the people there, and cause several hardships.”

“The SLMM should take action to control the SLN’s actions and enable the people to live free of harassment and to go about their daily lives peacefully,” the petition said.

“The SLN has made calculated attempts to destroy the education of students and the livelihood of farmers. They have intimidated people and warned them that they have to follow the Navy’s orders. Not only should SLN’s heavy-handed actions be condemned, but such actions need to be stopped,” the petition said.

The statement went on to list several recent road closures that have disrupted local people’s lives and affected their education and livelihoods, especially that of the poor farmers in the areas. The petition also said residents would organize widespread protests if the situation did not improve.


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