The burning of the printing press of the Uthayan newspaper in Jaffna comes shortly after an attack on its distribution point in Kilinochchi. These targeted acts of violence perpetrated on the largest circulation newspaper in the Northern Province have taken place despite the very large presence of security forces. They also follow another violent attack on a meeting of the largest opposition Tamil party, the Tamil National Alliance, in Kilinochchi where the security forces present on the scene remained inactive.
The TNA, as well as the Leader of the Opposition, have alleged that these attacks are carried out by soldiers in civil but the government denies them. A government spokesperson has said the latest attack is an inside job to discredit the government. The National Peace Council condemns these attacks regardless of who is behind them.
The NPC notes that these attacks are occurring in the context of anticipated provincial council elections for the Northern Province. The government has promised to hold these elections in September and the international community is monitoring this promise. The issue of the Northern Provincial election was referred to in the resolution on reconciliation in Sri Lanka of the UN Human Rights Council last month. We believe that the democratically elected government has the responsibility to stop these types of attacks, find the culprits and bring them to justice. If not, the credibility of the government as one that follows democratic norms will collapse. It is therefore important that these elections be held according to internationally acceptable standards.
The government should show to the International community that the elections are being held to give the Tamil minority an opportunity to enjoy the devolution of power already provided for in the Constitution. In the past all governments used to co-opt individual Tamil politicians to show the world that the Tamil minority accepts the Sri Lankan State except for the LTTE. The government now has an opportunity to show the world that the Tamil people have accepted allegiance to the Sri Lankan State by ensuring their participation in free and fair provincial elections. But preventing a free and fair election will only nullify this option and strengthen the demands emanating from extremist groups in Tamil Nadu and other places in the world.
There is a growing danger that the international community will begin to see that the government’s conduct of the Northern Provincial Council elections as being a deceptive exercise in which the worst unfair and undemocratic tactics are used for the purpose of winning or undermining the Tamil National Alliance’s vote base. The government needs to ensure the rule of law and provide security to all its citizens in the North. The failure of the government to protect its citizens will give rise to heightened international scrutiny and to strengthened demands for international intervention to determine the future of the Tamils within Sri Lanka.
National view of conflicting versions regarding the responsibility for the violence that is occurring , the National Peace Council calls for an independent investigation be carried out with the participation of representatives of political parties and experienced and retired police officers known for their independence and investigative capacity.