Friday, June 08, 2007

Churches Protest Forced Evictions of Over 300 Tamils from Colombo

Church leaders were among those who protested at Colombo's Lipton Circus this afternoon against the forced eviction of over 300 Tamil persons from "lodges" in Colombo. They gathered at the Cinnamon Gardens Baptist Church premises to organize themselves from which point they joined many other groups.

More than 300 Tamils who live in lodges in Colombo suburbs have been forcibly evacuated by the Sri Lankan Police, after a massive search operation in the Wellawatte, Kotahena, Pettah and Wattala areas in the morning of 7th June. According to news reports, 47 Tamils were forcefully taken from a single lodge located in Station Road in Wellawatte. Another lodge in the area reported 35 arrests by the Police.

Rt Revd Duleep de Chickera, Bishop of Colombo issued the following statement

I refer to the disturbing news that Tamil civilians in and around Wellawatte and Pettah are being indiscriminately rounded up and deported to the Tamil areas in the North and East without adequate investigation or explanation.

This is a serious violation of the dignity and civic rights of these citizens of Sri Lanka and if these reports are true, this must be stopped and alternate security measures that safeguard the civic rights of all communities enforced.

The plight of those who have already been deported must be gone into immediately and appropriate remedial steps taken to enable them to once again pursue their legitimate business and interests. Where there has been reasonable suspicion for arrest and investigation, appropriate security procedures must be followed. In all this, the right of all communities in our country to be free to travel for personal and official business must be ensured by the State.

It is within this framework of equal civic rights and the freedom of travel and residence that all necessary security measures and contingency plans must be executed. I appeal to the President of the country to address these concerns speedily and with understanding.


Today, the Supreme Court ordered an immediate halt to the eviction. A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court issued the order following a petition filed by a political activist group "Centre for Policy Alternatives", which argued that yesterday's action was a violation of basic human rights.

"The court will hear the case on June 22," an official said, adding that police Inspector General Victor Perera and four officers in charge of police stations here were restrained from carrying out any eviction pending the court hearing.

A CPA spokeswoman said they will go before the apex court seeking redress for those already evicted. The government said yesterday 376 people were evicted in seven buses and would be taken to Jaffna, Vavuniya, Trincomalee and Batticaloa


The Sri Lankan Blogosphere is reacting strongly to the recent move by the authorities to evacuate some Tamil people in Colombo. A lot of blogs have expressed anger and rage at the government’s actions, while others have attempted to understand the reasons for this move. Another debate appears to if this is a form of ethnic cleansing or sheer ineptness on part of the government.


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