Public angered as police removes billboard

[TamilNet, Thursday, 30 January 2003, 05:23 GMT]
The police in Batticaloa in the early morning hours Wednesday removed the billboard erected by the public near the Pillaiyar temple located at the entrance to the Batticaloa town, with the sign "Welcome to the land where courage grows," sources said

The billboard also contained artwork depicting a fighter carrying the dead body of another fighter, the sources said.

When Minister Milinda Moragoda and the chiefs of the Sri Lankan Army, Navy and Air force visited Batticaloa last week, the security forces told the minister about the billboard and asked him that the billboard be removed. When the minister returned to Colombo, he accepted the forces' stand and ordered the board's removal, the sources said.

Accordingly, when the SL police and the army removed the billboard on Monday night and returned in their vehicles, the public stopped them and asked for the billboard. Heated arguments with the police ensued, and the public sat on the roads blocking traffic.

Then the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission officials visited the scene and got the billboard returned to the public peacefully.

On Tuesday, the public, especially the University and educational community, re-erected the billboard. The action by the police in removing the board in the early morning hours of Wednesday involved a massive number of police personnel, including policewomen to handle any potential agitation by the people, the sources said.

Batticaloa board

Following this incident, the police have beefed up the security of the police station in Batticaloa, and placed the army and police on high alert, as they feared an attack on the police station.

The public has expressed its anger at the incident and plans to erect similar billboards at several locations in the district, sources said.


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