Jaffna mayor arrested for promoting LTTE “police” uniform: Police
ECONOMYNEXT – Jaffna Mayor Visvalingam Manivannan was taken into custody this morning by the Jaffna police for allegedly promoting uniforms and iconography of the now defunct Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE), police spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana said.
Rohana said in a statement that the mayor was found to have recruited five individuals to perform traffic duties in Jaffna town in uniforms that resemble those worn by the LTTE’s self-styled “police”.
An investigation launched on the instructions of Public Security Minister Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekara had revealed, the police spokesman said, that the individuals were recruited three days ago on temporary basis.
Statements had been recorded from the Jaffna police, the Jaffna municipal commissioner and others, he said.
Promoting symbols associated with the LTTE including uniforms is an offence under provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) as per an extraordinary gazette issued on August 06, 2011, said Rohana.
The mayor will be detained by the Terrorism Investigation Division (TID) and charged under the PTA, with the TID and the Jaffna police carrying out further investigations, he added.
Meanwhile, Tamil Guardian reported that the five individuals had been recruited to a Jaffna municipal council task force his week to enforce penalties against environmental infractions such as littering and spitting.
The website reported that the Jaffna municipal commissioner was summoned by police on Wednesday (07) and was interrogated for three hours. According to the report, the police had told the commissioner to suspend the task force and hand over their uniforms, and the commissioner had complied.
Tamil Guardian further reported that Mayor Manivannan had said at a press conference yesterday (07) that the uniforms were in fact the same as those worn by a similar task force run by the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC). Quoting the mayor, the website said the uniforms held no further connotations and that the police were “making allegations based on social media conspiracy theories”.
A cursory Google search for “LTTE police” shows, at first glance, a striking resemblance between the task force uniform and the one donned by the Tiger “cops”, though it is unclear at present whether this is purely coincidental. EconomyNext also found that a parking meter initiative run by the CMC does indeed employ staffers that don a light blue shirt and pants of a darker shade, vaguely similar to the offending Jaffna outfit.
Main opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) MP Kins Nelson raised the issue in parliament yesterday claiming that the Jaffna mayor had employed a “security team” to carry out all traffic-related duties in the town area in a uniform similar to LTTE police and that he has photo evidence to prove it.
State Minister of National Security Chamal Rajapaksa invited Nelson to attend a meeting of the Ministerial Consultative Committee on Defence with any evidence he had on the issue. The meeting was scheduled to be held later that evening in parliament with the participation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
Condemning the mayor’s arrest on Twitter, Tamil National People’s Front (TNPF) leader MP Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam called for his release.
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
Research Fellow in International Law at Chatham House and former Senior Lecturer at the University of Jaffna called the arrest outrageous.
My friend and fellow lawyer, Jaffna’s Mayor V. Manivannan has been arrested by the Terrorism Investigation Department of the Sri Lankan Police. This is outrageous. He must be immediately released. https://t.co/XOWzmFEldA
— K. Guruparan (@rkguruparan) April 8, 2021