People suffer due to sudden curfew in Jaffna
May 8th, 2006
By D.B.S. Jeyaraj
A sudden sixteen hour curfew was imposed in Jaffna from Sunday May 7th midnight to Monday May 8th 4. 00 pm for reasons of security. Military spokesperson Brigadier Prasad Samarasinghe when asked by the BBC Tamil service about the curfew said it was for security purposes. He declined to give the reasons for it.
An unofficial curfew was imposed first in Manthuvil in the Thenmaratchy sector after eight youths sleeping in a temple were allegedly killed by security forces. A local curfew was declared to subdue tensions. Later a peninsula wide curfew was announced. People of Manthuvil suspect that the bodies of the youths said to be lying in Kapppoothu were clandestinely disposed of by the killers under cover of the curfew.
Four reasons can be adduced for the curfew declared at short notice. The announcement was made only at 9 pm on May 7th that the curfew would come into force from 12 am midnight.
The first reason is that the security forces were worried about massive civil unrest commencing in Jaffna from May 8th. A stoppage of work by civil organizations and student bodies had been planned earlier to protest the continuing violence and civilian deaths in the peninsula. The Manthuvil incident was expected to fuel that. By declaring a curfew the pre- planned Hartal was made a non – starter . An ugly situation was averted at least temporarily.
Secondly the security forces used the curfew to transport men and materials by road from the Palaly base to Nagarkovil frontline. Security convoys started out from Palaly and reached Atchuvely on the Point Pedro – Jaffna road via Pathaimeni. Some convoys then went along to Manthigai junction and then de- toured through Vallipuram to reach Nagarkovil along the Maruthankerni coastal road.
Other convoys came along the same route from Palaly but veered to the left at Vallai junction. The vehicles then went along the Mandan – Mulli – Varany road and reached the Maruthankerni road through Kudathanai and Vallipuram.
Militarily beefing up Nagarkovil suggests that the security forces are either preparing for an onslaught by the LTTE along that axis or getting ready for an offensive on Vettilaikerny – Kattaikkaadu and from there to Elephant pass.
The third reason was to conduct surprise cordon and search operations in the peninsula while restricting civilian movement through curfew. Security forces conducted such operations in many places including Nallur, Inuvil and Thunnalai.
Fourthly it was to demonstrate to Jaffna people that the security forces controlled Jaffna. Through this action they showed the people that the army writ runs throughout Jaffna. It was more than symbolic.
Most people were taken unaware and faced much difficulties. Many people did not even know about the curfew. Farmers who went out at first light were detained by soldiers who forced them to squat in front of check posts and camps for hours. Fishermen coming in to shore after a night on sea too suffered in the same way. Many boats were not allowed to pull ashore and had to float on the waves.
People could not go to work or schools. In many houses getting food was difficult because the sudden curfew prevented them from getting food. Sick people could not get medical treatment.
People caught breaking the curfew were assaulted in some instances. In most cases they were kept waiting in the sun for hours as punishment.
Residents of Jaffna told the media that they underwent much hardship due to this sudden curfew imposed on them for security purposes.
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