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Sampanthan slams President for silence over arrests in East

TNA leader R. Sampanthan yesterday urged the government to explain the circumstances leading to a series of arrests in the Eastern Province, particularly in the Trincomalee District.  An irate Trincomalee District MP accused the government of failing to respond to a letter he had recently written to President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The TNA veteran was speaking to The Island on his return from Jaffna, where he joined UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe on May Day to urge the government to create conditions necessary for them to join the proposed Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC), on the national issue.

There couldn’t be any reason whatsoever to take men into custody three years after the conclusion of the conflict, MP Sampanthan said. He alleged that the police and security forces had been engaged in search operations in the East, targeting those suspected of having had links with the LTTE.

Military spokesman Ruwan Wanigasuriya told The Island that since the end of the war, the armed forces hadn’t been involved in large scale search operations in any part of the country, though they assisted the police. Commenting on the recent operations in the Eastern Province, Brig. Wanigasuriya said that the military hadn’t initiated action but provided the required support to the law enforcement authorities. He emphasised that the deployment of troops for internal security operations was the prerogative of the government, not only here, but in any part of the world, depending on the requirements.

Asked whether the military was targeting ex-LTTE cadres, who may have missed rehabilitation at the conclusion of the conflict, the Brigadier said that nothing could be as important as having them rehabilitated. That would enable them to earn a living and lead normal lives, the official said. It would be a mistake to deny them the opportunity to undergo vocational training, he said, adding that the rehabilitation process was now rapidly coming to its final phase.

The TNAleader stressed that post-war arrests remained a thorny issue. “The government should address our concerns”, he said, alleging that routine cordon and search operations were worrying those living in the Northern and Eastern Provinces. MP Sampanthan said: “I was in Kuchchuveli, north of Trincomalee, when the arrest of some youth was brought to my notice. I rushed to the Kuchchuveli police station, where the police had 30 men lined up. An ASP of the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID), who had the men brought in, told me all would be released in 30 minutes as they were not involved in anything. True to his word, all were released before I reached my residence in Trincomalee. But, subsequently, five of them were taken in.”

Sampanthan urged the government to stop what he called clandestine operations if it genuinely wanted to win the confidence of the people who had undergone untold suffering during the conflict. Asked whether he had any idea how many men had been arrested in the East, MP Sampanthan said 15 and 20 persone had been taken in. He claimed that some of them had been already moved to Boossa, where hardcore terrorists were held and also Welikanda rehabilitation centre.

by Shamindra Ferdinando


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