Jaffna shooting by police should be strongly condemned


Gajan and Sulakshan

by Laksiri Fernando


The police shooting and the killing of two Jaffna University students on Oct. 21 should be condemned strongly, and the blatant killers brought to justice without delay. By shooting at the heads of the motorcycle riders, it is very clear that what was done was more than to stop the vehicle – that objective could have been achieved by firing at the motorbike itself or its tyres.

Anyway there is no apparent reason for the police to stop and search vehicles in such a manner in Jaffna today and these incidents would remind us of the circumstances under which many militant organizations emerged in the Peninsula in the late 1970s and early 1980s. History should not be allowed to repeat itself by the actions of unmindful, callous or possibly chauvinist police or army officers. The police or the army should not act or allowed to act on the basis that they monitor and control a subjugated people.

This incident among others highlights the urgency of screening very carefully the police officers and troops stationed in Jaffna and the North and the need to recruit more and more Tamil officers to take over the security of those areas among other reforms within the police and the armed forces. Within a constitutional overhauling (i.e. a new constitution), handing over ‘community policing,’ including traffic checks to the provincial councils could be considered if the handing of the complete subject of ‘law and order’ is premature at the moment given national security considerations.

From all the news reports available at the moment, it appears that Sundiraja Sulakshan and Nadaraja Gajan were completely innocent students who were travelling home that night after attending a private party at Chunnakam. Are they prohibited from attending parties or riding motor cycles without interference at night? These are the questions one should ask to unravel the reasons behind the shooting.

Sundiraja and Nadaraja seem to have been good friends studying for their degrees in Arts in the third year. This is not only about two important lives lost affecting the dead, their families, dear ones and friends but also the country and their community due to the police brutality. According to available reports, after the incident the police officers had handed over the bodies to the hospital as if they had met with an accident! It is the medical officers who had detected the gun shot injuries on the head. Thanks are due to the two Divaina (22 October) reporters giving a true picture of the incident to Sinhala readers.

Those among the Sinhalese who believe or advocate that Jaffna and the North should be kept under the yoke of the Sinhalese through the army and the police should be ashamed of the incident. It is true that unlike in the past or under the previous regime, swift action has been taken to immediately interdict and arrest all those who were involved in the shooting and the attempted cover up. Similarly, the judicial and disciplinary enquiries should be performed to deliver justice without delay. Those involved are five in number. This is a matter over which Jaffna people should strongly protest. It is a matter of importance not only to the Jaffna University but also other universities.

Most importantly, the Police Commission, the Office for Reconciliation (ONUR) and also the relevant Ministers and Ministries must examine police placements in Jaffna and the North/East and recommend necessary measures to avoid such incidents and to alleviate any further fears that the people may have in respect of the police handling of civilians.

Educating police officers, weeding out undesirable (chauvinist) elements, and the use of technology (e.g. CCTV) to monitor situations could be adopted among others. These may be necessary in the short run until more permanent arrangements are made under devolution or even after. What is increasingly clear is that more ‘shared responsibility’ should be placed on the provincial councils particularly in the North and the East in managing ‘law and order’ with the central government. The trust that the Tamil people placed on the President and the government should be fulfilled. The situation in Jaffna and in the North should not be oppressive.

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