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TNA demands release of fasting prisoners

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TNA leader, Trincomalee District MP, R. Sampanthan, making a special statement in Parliament said: “We call upon the government to take immediate steps to release all the Tamil political prisoners since three years have lapsed after the armed conflict ended. We also request that proper responsible assurances be given to the fasting prisoners in this regard forthwith so that they may decide to suspend their hunger-strike.”

Sampanthan accused the military intelligence of assaulting the Jaffna University Students’ Union president Paramalingam Dharshanath, on May 18 in Jaffna. “This attack, like the previous one on the Chairman of the Students’ Union will only serve to alienate the Tamils further. This once again highlights the negative aspects of the heavy military presence in Jaffna. This attack is suspected to be the work of the military intelligence as the assailants in this instance, like many previous instances, will not be apprehended,” the TNAleader said.

Full text of the TNA leader’s speech: “There are 234 Tamil political prisoners, who are on a hunger strike for the sixth consecutive day today. 179 of them are at the Colombo Remand Prison, 33 at Vavuniya and another 22 at Kalutara. The health condition of several of these prisoners has deteriorated drastically. On Sunday 20th May 2012, two Members of Parliament, from my party, visited the Colombo Remand Prison and spoke to many of the fasting prisoners and appealed to them to suspend their fast until the authorities take a decision at a meeting said to have been convened for today. The prisoners have refused to call off their fast stating that several assurances given in the past have not been kept and that this time they are determined to fast unto death.

It is important to highlight this issue to this House as a matter of utmost urgency and through this to the whole country. Almost all the fasting prisoners are persons who surrendered to the security forces at the end of the armed conflict in May 2009. There are many disabled persons amongst them, despite the government’s claim that all disabled persons were released promptly, even without undergoing rehabilitation. According to the government, over 10,000 persons who surrendered have been rehabilitated and released. We have appreciated this approach and are grateful to the government for this move. However, inexplicably, many hundreds still remain in custody. Some of them have undergone rehabilitation and even possess the IOM certificate in that regard. But, they have been arrested at the point of release and have been incarcerated without any charges being preferred against them. We note that while many leaders of the LTTE, upon their readiness to cooperate with the government, have effectively been pardoned and enjoy positions in government and attendant perquisites from the State, these prisoners are being deprived of their liberty for so long, while their families are on the verge of starvation due to the fact that the bread-winner is in prison.

We call upon the government to take immediate steps to release all the Tamil political prisoners since three years have lapsed after the armed conflict ended. We also request that proper responsible assurances be given to the fasting prisoners in their regard forthwith so that they may decide to suspend their hunger-strike.

I also would like to draw the attention of this House to the dastardly attack carried out on the Secretary of the Jaffna University’s Students’ Union, Paramalingam Dhrshanath, on the 18th of May at around 8.00 a.m., in broad daylight in Jaffna. This attack, like the previous one on the Chairman of the Students’ Union, will only serve to alienate the Tamils further. This once again highlights the negative aspects of the heavy military presence in Jaffna. This attack is suspected to be the work of the military intelligence as the assailants of this instance, like many previous instances, will not be apprehended. If the government denies the involvement of the military in this attack, let it arrest the offenders promptly and prosecute them.

While condemning, in the strongest terms, this deliberate and audacious attack on a student leader of the Jaffna University, we call upon the government without further delay to take effective steps to reduce the excessive and oppressive presences of the military force in the North-East.”

Leader of the House Irrigation Minister Nimal Siripala De Silva said that the issues raised in the special statement of the TNA leader comes under the purview of three ministries and informed the House that the government’s reply would be given today (23).

by Saman Indrajith
IS

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