MSM Ayub, Deputy Editor and columnist, in Daily Mirror (May 22, 2020)
Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Indi Samarajiva)
Is quarantine a method of punishment? That may be a good question to ask after watching police prevent Northern Province politicians from commemorating Tamils who were killed during the civil war that ended 11 years ago.
While the government was preparing to commemorate the members of the armed forces and the police who laid down their lives in the fight against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), Northern politicians planned a commemoration of those Tamils, including members of the LTTE, who were killed in the war.
The government, despite its opposition to those events, had not banned them. But the police used the public-health instructions to prevent the Tamil politicians and the Northern people from attending.
The quarantine process was perceived as a method for isolating people infected with the coronavirus. The police warned former Northern Province chief minister CV Wigneswaran, who was heading to a commemoration, that they would punish him with quarantine if he disobeyed, even though he and his followers said that they would adhere to health requirements.
Wigneswaran proceeded to the venue with police permission. He and his group travelled in separate vehicles, wearing face masks. Yet the police later consulted the higher authorities before they prevented him from attending the event. The government had instructed the police not to allow gatherings because of the Covid-19 threat. If he had disobeyed, they could have arrested him.
The importance placed on these events by the Tamil politicians and media indicates the vast division among communities 11 years after the end of the war. The government’s position on the commemoration of Tamils killed in the war is not clear. Is it illegal to hold such events? If so, why didn’t the government ban those commemorations under the relevant law without citing the coronavirus threat?