North-East courts reject police requests to ban events to commemorate war dead

In the Northern and Eastern Provinces, several courts have turned down police requests seeking stay orders banning tomorrow’s commemorative events organised by the Tamil community to remember their war dead and those who were killed during the war period.

When the seven applications filed by Kilinochchi Division police stations came before the magistrate court on Friday, the court refused to grant an order under vague urgent public nuisance clauses while recognising the right of the people to remember their lost loved ones.

Police sought early stay orders from the magistrate under the Code of Criminal Procedure Section 106 (1), saying that these events were being organised to commemorate the terrorists who belonged to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a terrorist organisation banned in the country. The police argued that if allowed, it would cause enmity among communities and disrupt normalcy in the region.

Jaffna District Tamil National Alliance Parliamentarian M.A. Sumanthiran, who appeared in the cases in the Kilinochchi Magistrate’s Court, submitted that attempts by police to prevent these events were in bad faith since similar events were conducted annually for the past thirteen years.

He told the Court that under Article 14, clauses (a), (b), and (c) of the Constitution, the right of association and freedom of religion are fundamental rights of the citizens. These ceremonies are organised to bring solace to the departed souls in line with their religious beliefs, and that fundamental right could not be curtailed, he said.

When the police told the court that if the temporary sheds collapsed, they could pose a danger to the people, the court directed the police to submit a technical report on such instances since the police acknowledged that some sheds were yet to be put up.

Similarly, in Jaffna, Mallakam, Point Pedro, Kokkadicholai, and Vavunathivu, the magistrates’ courts shot down police requests for a ban on commemorative events. However, at Sampur in Trincomalee, the magistrate court issued a stay order, but moves are underway to move a motion to urge the court to reconsider its decision on Monday.

The annual Martyrs’ Day, known as “Maveerar Day,” was introduced by the LTTE to commemorate its fallen cadres in its dedicated cemeteries on November 27 as a major public event.

Following the end of the war, many such cemeteries were either destroyed or new buildings were put up by security authorities. Currently, family members, relatives, and those who lost their loved ones during the war assemble near those cemeteries to mark the day to remember their war dead.

Meanwhile, Senior DIG (North) K.P.M. Gunaratne told the Sunday Times that if there were any violations against the laws or illegal activities such as commemorating terrorists, the police would deal with the situation according to the law.

The Inspector General of Police (IGP) and the Director of the Terrorism Investigation Division (TID), meanwhile, gave an undertaking to the Court of Appeal (CA) this week that they would take action under common law and the Code of Criminal Procedure against any attempt to commemorate the LTTE. The undertaking was given by Senior State Counsel Shamindra Wickrama, who appeared for the IGP.

The IGP and TID Director gave the undertaking when the CA took up a writ petition filed by Ananda Jayamanna, a retired military intelligence officer, requesting an order to enforce the law against any event being held to commemorate the LTTE and its late leader Velupilai Prabhakaran.