Over 800 Tamils arrested

Distraught families attempt to march towards Temple Trees

By Jayashika Padmasiri
More than 800 Tamils were arrested in Colombo since Friday during combined search operations launched by the security forces and Police, following Wednesday’s bomb blasts at Colombo 5 and Nugegoda, which killed more than 20 and injured many more.

Some 100 detainees have been sent to the Boossa detention camp in Galle following the arrests.
Around 350 Tamils were initially detained on Friday by the Maradana, Pettah, Grand Pass, Kotahena, Dehiwala, Pelawatte, Mirihana and Mount Lavinia Police Stations on suspicion. However, the number had increased to over 800 by last evening.

Meanwhile, chaos raged at Galle Face Green last afternoon after distraught family members of the victims attempted to march towards Temple Trees to seek President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s intervention to release the detainees.
The attempt was however blocked by the Police, who did not allow the protestors to walk from Galle Face Green towards Temple Trees.

UNP Colombo District Parliamentarian T. Maheswaran who was also present at Galle Face told The Nation that they suspected that Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and his brother Basil Rajapaksa were responsible for the detentions.
“It is the Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and his brother Basil who are doing this and the President is fully aware of it all,” Maheswaran charged.

Meanwhile, the families of the victims are also scheduled to meet with Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe today to complain about the forceful detention of hundreds of Tamils, most of whom are Tamil youth. The issue is also expected to be taken up in Parliament this week.
It is reported that these Tamils, mainly youth, were arrested by the Police and security forces despite producing identification papers.

“President Rajapaksa has agreed to meet us but not the family members of the detainees. What is the use of talking about the issue with only parliamentarians; the victims and their families must be spoken to. Innocent people who come to live here because they are unable to live in Jaffna owing to the prevailing situation there are being taken away by the Police even after all legal documents are presented to them,” pointed out Maheswaran.

According to him, even cancer patients were arrested and taken away and school boys who didn’t posses National Identity Cards were also detained, while some have reportedly gone missing since Friday.
Vocational and Technical Training Deputy Minister P. Radhakrishnan who was also present during the protest said that they are not happy about this latest development.

“On Friday I brought this issue to the notice of MP Basil Rajapaksa and Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle. As a Tamil representative, I told them that this is not done. Just because they are Tamils, they should not be harassed. If you find anyone involved in any illegal activity they should be arrested, but you should not harass anyone just because they come from Jaffna and are Tamil. We are not happy about what is happening today at all – the bomb explosions or the harassment that is taking place. We ask the President to release the detainees,” the Deputy Minister appealed.
The Minister explained that while a few who were arrested by the Pettah Police have been released, a large number continued to remain in custody.

Seeking Indian assistance

Colombo District Parliamentarian T. Maheswaran has written to Indian Defence Advisor M.K. Narayanan requesting visas for temporary Tamil occupants in Colombo to travel to Chennai in a bid to avoid prosecution.
Meanwhile, Tamil parliamentarians, including the Tamil National Alliance, will stage a harthal tomorrow in Colombo over the arrests of over 800 Tamils.
Maheswaran told The Nation yesterday that he and other members would raise this issue in Parliament on Monday. Parents and family members of the detainees are scheduled to be present at the public gallery when the matter is debated.