by National Peace Council of Sri Lanka
The re-commencement of the practices of registering Tamils with the police and of conducting search operations that target them have been widely reported in the Tamil media in particular and have created a renewed sense of insecurity and injustice amongst the larger Tamil population that is detrimental to national reconciliation.
The practice of registering of Tamils and security search operations of private residences even late at night was carried out during the period of war and terrorism. But today more than 14 months have elapsed since the war ended, and there have been no acts of militancy or terrorism in this period that would necessitate a revival of the harsh measures of the past. Two months ago Parliament approved the repeal of a large number of emergency laws which was projected worldwide as a sign that normalcy had returned to the country.
On the ground however the situation has deteriorated where normal life for Tamil people is concerned. Democratic People's Front Leader Mano Ganesan has requested President Mahinda Rajapaksa to intervene to halt the police registration of Tamils in the Wellawatte Police division in Colombo as discriminatory and against the spirit of reconciliation.
The Government is expected to uphold the Constitution which affirms that everybody will be treated equally irrespective of race or creed. The President himself has frequently proclaimed that there is only a single nation in this country. However, Tamils living in Wellawatte had been singled out and asked to register themselves at the Wellawatte Police Station last week. There are reports of Tamils in other parts of Colombo also being asked to register themselves.
Responding to a query from the media last week the Police spokesman said that action was taken under the Police Ordinance in this respect. The Police Ordinance gives power in respect of detection and prevention of crime. It cannot be applied in an ethnically discriminatory fashion. The Colombo head of police, Deputy Inspector General H.N.B. Herath is reported to have said they were instructed by higher authorities to register all people -- including Tamils. All right thinking people will acknowledge that democracy is governance according to law and not according to the wishes of the rulers. The rulers are equally subject to the law and must abide by the Constitution.
The National Peace Council calls on the government to ensure that there is no discriminatory targeting of Tamils, or any section of the Sri Lankan people, as this is root of conflict. While we recognise that security measures may need to be taken we are opposed to the singling out of any one community for such targeted actions on the basis of democratic values.
The positive actions of the government, such as its appointment of a Commission on Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation, and with which the government has challenged the credibility of international human rights critics, must not be undermined by its discriminatory and heavy handed actions in other areas. NPC calls upon the government to repeal the obnoxious Prevention of Terrorism Act and Emergency Regulations under which the police are acting. We only stating the obvious when we assert that security does not come through suspicion but only through trust and confidence born out of reconciliation.