By Laksiri Fernando
The police shooting and the killing of two Jaffna University students on the 21st should be condemned strongly, and the blatant killers should be brought to justice without delay. By shooting to the head of the motorcycle riders, it is very clear that it was done not to stop the vehicle, but to kill. If it were to stop the vehicle, then the shooting could have been done to the vehicle or the tires.
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 the circumstances under which many militant organizations emerged in the Peninsula in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The history should not be allowed to repeat by the actions of the unmindful, callous or possibly chauvinist police or army officers. The police or the army should not act or allowed to act on the impression that they monitor and control a subjugated people.
This incident among others highlights the urgency of screening very carefully the police officers and the army 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 the ‘community policing,’ including traffic checks, to the provincial councils could be considered, if the handing over of 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 that night after attending a private party at Chunnakam. They were travelling home. Are they prohibited of attending parties at night? Are they prohibited of riding motor cycles without interference at night? These are the questions one should ask to unravel the reasons behind.
Sundiraja and Nadaraja seem to be good friends, studying their degrees in Arts in the third year. This is about two important lives lost for themselves, their families, dear ones and friends. These are two important lives lost for the country and to their community due to the police brutality. On the other hand, according to the available reports, after the incident, the police officers have handed over the wounded to the hospital as if they had met with an accident! It is the medical officers who have detected the gun shots on the head. Thanks are due to the two reporters of the Divaina (22 October) this time giving a true picture of the incident to the 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 who involved are five in number. This is a matter that Jaffna should strongly protest. This is a matter that not only the Jaffna University but also other universities should protest in solidarity.
Most important might be for the Police Commission, the Office for Reconciliation (ONUR) and also the relevant Ministers and Ministries to carefully look at the 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 the civilians. Education of police officers, weeding out of 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.