The Mayor of Jaffna, Viswalingam Manivannan was arrested by Sri Lanka’s Terrorism Investigation Division (TID) at around 2.30am on Friday morning.
Manivannan, who is also an attorney-at-law, was arrested on charges of attempting to resurrect the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and taken to Vavuniya for ‘further investigation’.
The arrest follows an investigation into the uniforms of a Jaffna Municipal Council task force which was launched this week to enforce penalties against environmental infractions such as littering and spitting. Sri Lankan police alleged that the uniforms worn by the task force were similar to those formerly worn by the LTTE’s police force.
The Jaffna Municipal Commissioner was summoned by police on Wednesday night and interrogated for around 3 hours regarding the uniforms. Police also told the Commissioner to halt the task force’s duties and to hand over its uniforms, which the commissioner carried out the following day. Police said at the time that the uniforms and the remainder of the investigation would be handed over to Colombo.
At around 8pm on Thursday night, Manivannan, along with another council member, Varatharajah Partheepan, were summoned to the Jaffna police station. After a lengthy interrogation, the Mayor was handed over to the TID and arrested. Partheepan continued to be interrogated and was released around 3am.
Earlier on Thursday evening, Manivannan held a press conference to address the allegations, and explained that the uniforms were in fact the same as those worn by a similar task force ran by the Colombo Municipal Council. The Mayor said that the uniforms held no further connotations and that the police were making allegations based on social media conspiracy theories.
“I strongly condemn the arrest of Mayor of Jaffna V Manivannan by the Sri Lankan governmentt, and call for his immediate release,” Canadian MP Gary Anandasangaree said on Twitter. “The continued harassment and arbitrary arrests of members of the Tamil community including elected officials, journalists & human rights defenders must end.”
The Mayor of Toronto, John Tory and Mayor of Brampton, Patrick Brown also joined in calling for the release of the Jaffna Mayor.
“I join Gary in condemning the arrest of the Mayor of Jaffna by the Sri Lankan government. I echo the call for his immediate release. This continuing unjust treatment of Tamils is unacceptable,” said John Tory on Twitter. “I urge others to join in this call and to stand in solidarity with our Tamil community.”
Patrick Brown tweeted, “The arrest of #JaffnaMayor by the Sri Lankan gov seems to be a revenge tactic against the UNHRC for setting up an investigation against them. This is wrong, wrong, wrong. They should release all political prisoners & cooperate with the UN to ensure justice for the #TamilGenocide”.
The @TnpfOrg unreservedly condemns the arrest of Manivannan by the TID and calls for his immediate release. The severe racial and political insecurities of this regime have reached such heights that a steady path towards fascism is inevitable. #tamil #lka https://t.co/pAvHid3Ixf
— Gajen Ponnambalam MP (@GGPonnambalam) April 9, 2021
Tamil National People’s Front (TNPF) leader, Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam, said on Twitter that his party condemns the arrest and echoed calls for Mayor of Jaffna, V Manivannan’s release
USA ambassador tweeted:
Arrest of Jaffna Mayor is worrisome. Having strong rule of law (with judicial safeguards) is a better way to fight terrorism while protecting everyone’s basic freedom.
— Ambassador Teplitz (@USAmbSLM) April 9, 2021
Statement from UNP: UNP condemns arrest of Jaffna Mayor, highlights similar uniform worn by CMC employees
The United National Party condemns the recent arrest of the Mayor of Jaffna, Visvalingam Manivannan, under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. Allegedly this arrest took place due to concerns raised regarding the uniforms worn by members of the Municipal Council.
The Party believes that an inquiry into any alleged wrongdoing by an elected official must be carried out by the relevant Ministry prior to any police action.
The UNP requests that clear evidence be presented regarding the allegations that the uniforms worn by the members of the council who have been employed to oversee the cleanliness of the Municipality has any resemblance to uniforms worn by the LTTE.
The Party further draws attention to the uniforms worn by the parking attendants within the Colombo Municipality, and questions if those could also be viewed as similar to those worn by the LTTE.
We urge that the relevant authorities ensure this matter is handled in a transparent manner and the elected officials be treated with the dignity and respect their office commands.
Central Media Unit
United National Party
9th April 2021
Jaffna Mayor released on bail
Mayor of Jaffna Visvalingam Manivannan who was arrested by the Jaffna police was released on bail after being produced before the Jaffna Magistrate yesterday, the police said.
Police spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana said the Mayor had released on two personnel bail of Rs. 200,000 each by the Magistrate.
Mayor Manivannan was arrested yesterday morning for allowing five of the municipal council’s men to wear uniforms similar to the ones the de facto LTTE policemen used to wear during the conflict, the Police said.
The Mayor was arrested in connection with offences of the Prevention under Terrorism Act (PTA), according to the gazette notification published on August 11, 2011.
Police investigations revealed that the five men attached to the Jaffna Municipal Council, were deployed in Jaffna town to perform police duties, he said.
“The Jaffna police were alerted about the five men and their outfit. The Jaffna Police and Terrorism Investigation Division (TID) conducted investigations into this and it was disclosed that the uniforms worn by the five men were similar to the ones worn by the de facto LTTE cops during the war,” he said.
Jaffna police and the TID recorded statements from the Municipal Commissioner and the five men.
It is understood that the Jaffna Mayor granted permission to recruit these men with the so-called uniforms.
According to the PTA, promoting LTTE or its ideology is prohibited. Daily Mirror