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In the crosshairs at the crossroads

COLOMBO (UCAN): Banners appeared in the streets of Colombo, Sri Lanka, reading Are bullets the only gift the government has for Tamils? and Such killings destroy reconciliation after two Tamil students from Jaffna University found themselves caught in the crosshairs of police guns at the crossroads at Kulappidi Junction on October 20.

Five police were arrested and remanded until November 4.

They had filed a falsified report claiming that Wijekumar Sulakshan and Nadarasa Gajan had been killed in a traffic accident, but are being accused of opening fire on the two students, who were riding a motorcycle, because they had failed to stop when asked to pull over.

Jaffna has been heavily militarised since the end of the civil war in 2009.

Father Sarath Iddamalgoda, who joined a rally in Colombo, said, “We condemn this unlawful act. Those who are found guilty should be severely punished. The loss of these two students can never be undone.”

He added, “The national reconciliation process will be disrupted due to this. We haven’t seen justice for such killings in the past, therefore this matter should be handled with full impartially by the government.”

The president, Maithripala Sirisena, has launched an independent inquiry and said that the parents of the dead students will be compensated. The National Peace Council has condemned the reported shooting.

“In restoring normalcy to the north and east of the country, where most of the three decades-long civil war was fought, we call on the government to emphasise the building of good relations between the police and the people,” the council says in a statement.

“The recruitment of more local police officers will be necessary so that the people feel greater confidence that all levels of government are functioning for their benefit,” it adds.

Meanwhile, a massive protest march was organised by students from Jaffna University to deliver a petition to the district secretary demanding an impartial inquiry into the incident.

The petition also pressed for both international and local human rights organisations to be invited to monitor all court proceedings.

Udul Premaratna, a former convener of the Inter-University Student Federation and a lawyer, said that the shooting must be seen in the context of the militarisation of north Sri Lanka.

“Through past experience, we know that if people raise their voices against the government they will be threatened, assaulted or abducted and this culture still remains in the north,” he explained.

“We demand the government take action against the police and also remove the military presence from the north; only then can we talk about real reconciliation,” he added.

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