Situation Brief No. 1: November 18, 2016
Student Killings, Aava Gang and the Securitisation of Jaffna
A topmost concern of the Tamil community in the North-East is the Sri Lankan Government’s failure to meaningfully confront systemic policing and military intelligence issues that have once again been brought to the forefront by the recent killings of two Jaffna University students by police. The government has in the aftermath of the killings chosen to utilise the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) to arrest dozens of individuals on allegations of being linked to the “Aava group” under the purview of the Terrorism Investigation Department (TID). The arrests under the PTA of alleged Aava group members is creating a climate of fear that represses activism and mobilization, and is perceived by local communities as an attempt to provide justification for the police shooting amidst the annual post-war crackdown by the military in the lead-up to Maaveerar Naal (Martyr’s Day).
Killings of Pavunraj Sulakshan and Nadarajah Kajan and Chunnakham Police Attack
On the night of October 20, 2016, Pavunraj Sulakshan and Nadarajah Kajan, students at Jaffna University, were tragically killed by a police shooting in Kokuvil. The police responsible were part of a special task force (to be distinguished from the Special Task Force (STF)) created to respond to increased gang violence on the peninsula and on the day of the incident had reportedly been stationed at a checkpoint on KKS road. Initially the police attempted to portray the incident as a motorcycle accident (see image 1) , but following revelations by the media that one of the two students had sustained gunshot injuries, the Jaffna Magistrate’s crime scene visit and the subsequent immediate mobilisation of the student community in front of the Jaffna Teaching Hospital mortuary demanding a proper inquiry, the Government Information Department released a statement admitting police involvement in the killings. Five policemen were arrested and a special Criminal Investigation Department (CID) team was dispatched from Colombo to carry out the investigations.
Mobilising to demand justice for the killings, around 2000 students led by the Jaffna University Faculty Student Unions conducted a silent demonstration in front of the Jaffna Kachcheri and opposite the Governor’s Residence on October 24. In a petition which the students submitted to the President and Prime Minister on that day, they called for: a free and fair police
investigation into the killings; an investigation by the National Police Commission into the initial cover up; monitoring of the investigation by the Human Rights Commission and local and international human rights activists; speedy investigations; and appropriate compensation to the families of the victims. The students also launched a week-long boycott of lectures at Jaffna
University. A hartal called for by all Tamil political parties shut down Jaffna on October 25. Solidarity demonstrations were held across the North-East and in the South.