Tamil activists hold protest rally in Lanka

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Colombo, Feb 3 (PTI) Tamil political and civil society groups in Sri Lanka held a protest rally on Wednesday, highlighting the grievances being faced by the community and demanding justice for civilians killed and disappeared during the civil war in the island nation.

As per UN figures, up to 40,000 civilians were killed by the security forces during then Mahinda Rajapaksa's regime that brought an end to nearly three decades of civil war in Sri Lanka with the defeat of LTTE in 2009. Both the government troops and the Tamil Tiger rebels are accused of war crimes.

According to the protest organisers, the rally saw a huge participation, despite police obtaining court orders to stop it.

The four-day protest march started from Pottuvil town in the eastern Amparai district and it would end at Polikandy in the northern Jaffna district on February 6.

The protest came days after the UN Human Rights Office last week called for an “international action to ensure justice for international crimes' allegedly committed during the 26-year civil war. Sri Lanka has rejected the report.

The protest aims at highlighting several issues being faced by the Tamil community in Lanka.

The protesters allege that lands owned by Tamils are being grabbed and Tamil areas are being systematically populated with the majority Sinhala community since the military conflict ended in 2009 in Lanka.

They also claim that Tamil political prisoners continue to languish in jails under the prevention of terrorism laws.

Members of Lanka's main Tamil party -- Tamil National Alliance (TNA) -- said the court orders were served on politicians, preventing them from taking part in the peaceful protest march.

They alleged that while protests are being allowed to take place in the Sinhala majority south of the island, Tamils in the north and east are being discriminated.

Tamil National Alliance parliamentarian M A Sumanthiran said the demonstration aims at raising awareness on the government’s continuous restrictions imposed on the minorities, illegal acquirement of lands belonging to the people in the North and East, urging the release of Tamil political prisoners, and to protest all forms of human rights violations in Sri Lanka, the Colombo Gazette reported.

The demonstration is carried out to also highlight issues surrounding the wages of estate workers, cremation of the remains of Muslim COVID victims and those reported missing during the civil war in Sri Lanka, he said. PTI CORR SCY SCY