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Five-day protest to greet British PM's Jaffna visit

2013 Nov 12

By Shamindra Ferdinando

 A five-day protest campaign gets underway in Jaffna today (12) ahead of UK Premier David Cameron’s visit to the peninsula.

The British delegation is scheduled to visit Jaffna on Friday (15), on the first day of the three-day Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). The delegation is scheduled to fly there and return on the same day.

Authoritative sources told The Island that some members of the newly elected Northern Provincial Council had been involved in the protest campaign, which was likely to be the biggest in the Jaffna peninsula since the conclusion of the conflict in May 2009. The Jaffna peninsula, however, was brought under government control in early 1996.

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) led by the Illankai Tamil Arasu Kadchi (ITAK) won the Sept. 21 Northern Provincial Council polls.

Asked whether the government intended to block the campaign, sources said that security top brass had directed the military and the police, deployed in the Jaffna peninsula, to be extremely cautious in dealing with those engaged in the protest.

TNA sources told The Island that the government couldn’t challenge the right of the masses to protest to highlight the grievances and difficulties experienced by the northern population due to heavy military presence, particularly in the Jaffna peninsula.

Army headquarters emphasised that the strength of the army deployed in the Jaffna peninsula had come down to 14,000 from 45,000.

A protest campaign was scheduled to be held in Colombo on the day of the CHOGM inauguration at Nelum Pokuna Theatre. "We are aware of ongoing efforts to move a group of people from the Northern Province to Colombo ahead of Friday’s inauguration," a senior official said.

In addition to protests in Jaffna and Colombo, some relatives of LTTE cadres killed in combat too, are planning a protest.

Sources said that the international media focus would be on Jaffna due to British Premier Cameron’s visit. They said that the New Zealand delegation, too, would visit Jaffna, while the low level Canadian group at the CHOGM 2013, too, was most likely to visit the peninsula.

Asked whether Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid would visit the peninsula, sources pointed out that he had flown to Jaffna early last month to meet newly elected Northern Province Chief Minister C. V. Wigneswaran and, therefore, another visit was unlikely.

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