For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya
Press release/ 28 December 2010
NfR is shocked to learn that the Deputy Director of Education of the Valikamam zone of the Jaffna District who refused to direct the students of the schools in his zone to recite the National Anthem in Sinhala only, was shot dead in Jaffna on the same day when the controversial government sponsored Tsunami Commemoration Day Ceremony was held in Jaffna. He was shot dead at point blank range on 26.10.2010 by unknown persons who had arrived at his residence in a van that evening.
Legitimate criticism of any action of the government or its policy is a right any citizen should have in a true democracy. Criticizing the policy of the Government to recite the National Anthem only in Sinhala, is a right of any Sri Lankan. Killing a person for expressing his disapproval of such a policy is not only a violation of his freedom of expression but also of his right to life.
According to information received from NfR sources in Jaffna, 52-year-old Markandu Sivalingam, the Deputy Director of Education is reported to have openly criticized this decision of the government which had issued a circular directing that the National Anthem should be sung only in Sinhala at the ceremony and had disapproved the call for the participation of school children at the ceremony. This information has been confirmed by a news item in the website of the Global Tamil News of 28th December, 2010.
Armed men had arrived in a van that evening and shot him dead in his house in front of his daughter. When the armed men entered the house they had asked his daughter for her jewelry. She had screamed calling for her father. When the father rushed in they had shot him ignoring her pleas not to shoot him and offering them all her jewelry. Eventually the killers had taken away only one earring after Sivalingam had fallen dead.
Earlier on 15th December, 2010 Nithiyananda Sharma, the Chief Priest of Chankaanai Murukamoorthy temple in the Jaffna District, was killed on 15th December 2010. NfR is of the opinion that this killing too had a political motive. Both the killings were committed in such a manner as to make them look like killings while attempting to rob. Incidents of this nature happening in an area which is under tight security leaves for speculations on who the could be.
NfR condemns both these killings in the strongest of terms and demands that the government of Sri Lanka should initiate independent and impartial inquires into these incidents to bring the culprits to book. Failing in its responsibility to do so, will only confirm the widely held belief that State sponsored death squads are behind these incidents. Until those responsible for these killings are bought to book the government will stand guilty in the eyes of the public. Besides such inaction will motivate rogue elements among the security forces to take the law into their hands with impunity and the Government’s claim of bringing about national reconciliation would remain only a dream.
Steering Committee, NfR Sri Lanka
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