ECONOMYNEXT – The organizers of the so-called P2P March are calling it a “huge success” and that the protest united the minority communities in the country as they travelled from Pothuvil in the Eastern Province through Mannar to Polikandi in the Northern Peninsula.
Batticaloa Member of Parliament from the Ilankai Tamil Arasu Katchi Rasamanickam Shanakyan, one of the leaders of the march told EconomyNext that the crowd “exceeded our expectations.”
He said that “minority leaders” from various parts of the country joined the march and at the end, the gathering “numbered tens of thousands.”
The efforts in previous years to gather large crowds for the march had failed but this time the crowd was unprecedented, local journalists said.
The march was joined by some prominent Muslim leaders including former Governor Azad Sally. En-route support was shown by the Muslim community and political leaders including Ameer Ali in Batticaloa and Imran Maharoof in Trincomalee the organizers claimed.
An organisation called the North-East Tamil Civil Society Forum set out a number of demands in the beginning of February in a letter to the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner.
Among the demands is the cessation of the destruction of Hindu temples and the building of Buddhist temples on those sites.
The forum accused the government of using the Archeological Department to claim many of these sites were originally Buddhist.
They also said the government was militarizing the North and expanding state-sponsored Sinhala settlements.
The forum also protested the compulsory cremation of the Covid dead saying that it goes against the religious beliefs of the Muslim community and the wishes of the families.
It also included a demand for the release of Tamil youth who were imprisoned under the Prevention of Terrorism Act decades ago. It said that Sinhala youth imprisoned under the same laws had been pardoned and that increasingly Muslims were being held under the same laws.
The statement also pointed out that the Tamil workers on the estates were demanding a minimum daily wage of LKR1,000 as promised by the government but are yet to receive the increase.
Army Commander General Shavendra Silva commenting said the protestors were exercising their Rights but alleged that the march was organized” by individuals who are catering to foreign countries with vested interests.”
He told a Television interviewer today, Feb 8 that the march was timed to add “fuel” to the proceedings expected to take place at the UN Human Rights Council due to begin in Geneva shortly. (Colombo, February 8, 2021)
Reported by Arjuna Ranawana