he death of two university students at Kokkuvil in Jaffna when they were shot at by the police when they had defied orders to stop the motorcycle they were riding is making headlines for the past several days, especially in the Tamil media. The sword attack on the two policemen on Sunday at the Chunnakam market automatically gains more weight in the belief that it is connected to the death of the two students.
However, the two incidents do not appear to be connected. Many media outlets have to be commended for highlighting the circumstances that led to the sword attack. It is said to be an accidental attack which had taken place after a ransom incident. At the same time it is sad to note that a section of the Tamil media and some politicians are giving the Kokkuvil incident an ethnic colouring. Even some Indians have joined them. The pro-LTTE Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader Vaiko has said the shooting in Kokkuvil showed that the attacks on Tamils by the Sri Lankan State have not ceased.
The Jaffna University Teachers’ Association has berated Defence Secretary Karunasena Hettiarachchi for what they call belittling the death of the students by saying at a function in Anuradhapura that these things might happen anywhere in the country. However, if the Defence Secretary has really meant that there was no ethnicity involved in the Kokkuvil shooting incident and similar incidents might happen even in the South, he was correct. It was wrong only if he meant to belittle the seriousness of the highhanded
Police highhandedness is a countrywide phenomenon. A best case in point was the recent clash between the police and the people in Embilipitiya where a youth died after falling from the upper floor of a building. Therefore people have to voice their protest against such highhanded acts irrespective of where they occur or which community is affected. Hence, the Inter University Student Federation’s call for the students of all universities in the country to protest against the shooting of Jaffna university students by the police is justified.
The Kokkuvil incident has taken place at a time when crimes in the Jaffna peninsula were reported to be on the rise and while an operation by the police to nab anti-social elements was on. According to reports from the North there are various criminal groups such as the “Aava group” and a recent sword wielding group operating in the North. It has to be pointed out that State Minister Vijayakala Maheswaran had stated recently that the discipline that prevailed in the North when the LTTE was active had drastically declined now. She had said that even a woman was able to walk on the street at night when the LTTE was powerful. A High Court Judge had recently ordered the police to contain criminal elements. It goes without saying that these points warrant action by the law enforcement authorities. It was no secret as to how the LTTE maintained discipline in the areas they controlled. Therefore it was unfortunate that two students had ignored the situation to defy police orders to stop their motorcycle.
However, as many point out, shooting at motorists, especially motorcyclists who seem to be not armed but defy orders cannot be accepted, now that there is no threat of insurgency in the North or South. Minister Mano Ganesan has questioned as to what use the 1000 CC motorbikes issued to the police if the police were if they did not use them to chase fleeing offenders. He also had questioned the training given to the police personnel who cannot shoot at the tyres of a fleeing vehicle or below the knee of a fleeing offender.
It is true that the first police version on the incident was wrong and reminded us of a case from the South, the “confession” made by “Kondaya” last year. However, orders have gone from the highest level -- from President Maithripala Sirisena to conduct an impartial investigation on the death of the students and accordingly five police personnel who were on duty at the scene have been remanded.Therefore, it is the duty of the Tamil leaders not to allow the incident be given a communal colouring.