On March 5, a group of journalists and a human rights activist went to Iranaimathanagar shore from which people used to go to the Iranaithivu island by boat. To find out facts behind the islanders’ protest against the burial of COVID-19 victims, the group tried to visit the island.
But the group was not allowed by the Navy personnel at the Iranaimathanagar shore. Therefore, Daily mirror reached Govt officials and human rights activists to further find out the reason behind such restrictions given that no official letter is produced restricting the entry into the island in a context even Govt has not made any official announcement that it does not carry out burials on the island.
The Government’s decision to bury the COVID-19 victims in Kilinochchi’s Iranaithivu island stirred much discussion early this month because of the opposition of the island residents and other concerned groups.
The graves had been dug by the Navy even when the islanders protested. According to media reports a campaign which was moderated by Mannar Social and Economic Development Organization (MSEDO) was held on March 3. To show their opposition many islanders joined the campaign. According to informed sources later last week, the Government has unofficially informed the islanders that COVID-19 victims will not be buried on the island.
The Navy personnel at the Iranaimathanagar point said that they have been informed by the Thalaimannar commander not to allow anyone other than islanders to enter the island.
They said they had received a list from the District Secretariat, and they had to follow it. According to them the list comprised names of 370 islanders. They said only those who were in the list could enter the island because of the burial issue.
Any one who wishes to go to Iranaithivu is allowed to enter the island now. The Navy has commenced an inquiry in this regard and would investigate the matter seriously- -Captain Indika de Silva
When inquired from the Navy Media Spokesman Captain Indika de Silva said any one who wishes to go to Iranaithivu is allowed to enter the island now. When inquired whether any legal document was produced to restrict movement other than islanders on March 5, Captain Silva said the Navy had commenced an inquiry in this regard and would investigate the matter seriously.
Speaking to Daily mirror an official attached to the Government Agent Office, who did not wish to reveal her name said the people had settled in the island recently and there was no police station in the village. “There are many security concerns over the island, and we must have certain restrictions on those who are involved in criminal activities like smuggling. Other than that, if you make a prior notice in advance, they will allow the entry.
They might have blocked people as there can be issues when it comes to burying Covid-19 victims. As a government body we have not imposed any restrictions, but the restrictions are for certain people based on illegal activities. Therefore, the Navy personnel are more vigilant on such activities,” she said.
Probing the restriction
Being one of the members in the group, who were not allowed to enter the island, human rights activist Ruki Fernando wrote to SL Human Rights Commission to probe the matter and find out the reasons behind the entry restrictions. The excerpts of the complaint are as follows:
This is further to my phone conversations with Mr Kanagaraj and Mr Chandrasiri.
I’m writing to seek urgent intervention of HRCSL to ensure my constitutional rights, specifically, freedom of movement (article 14 - 1- h) and expression and publication (article 14-1-a).
I have been writing to various newspapers and I have written on Iranaitheevu. I came today morning to Iranaimathanagar in Mulankavil to visit Iranaitheevu with two other journalists.
We met residents of Iranaithivu and Parish Priest in charge of the Catholic Church in Iranaimathanagar and Mulankavil. All encouraged and requested us to visit the island.
As there is no Police post in Iranaithivu, The Navy is vigilant to prevent illegal activities as it is an isolated island. So, they want to prove the identity of non-residents who wish to go to Iranaithivu
-Mrs.R.Ketheeswaran District Secretary/ Govt. Agent Kilinochchi District
But we were prohibited by the Navy check point from boarding a boat and going.
I understood that the Divisional Secretary had provided the Navy with a list of residents but had not prohibited anyone from going there.
This seems totally illegal and arbitrary action to me. I note that freedom of expression and movement can only be restricted “as prescribed by law” as per article 15 of the constitution.
Hence, I urge your immediate intervention to stop the violation of my above-mentioned rights under the constitution.
Based on the complaint, the SL Human Rights Commission wrote to the Kilinochchi Government Agent seeking explanations. Kilinochchi GA explained why media personnel and other parties were not allowed to go on March 5
through. As a response to the complaint lodged by the SL Human Rights Commission. The Kilinochchi GA produced a letter dated 08/03/2021. The explanations by the Kilinochchi GA is as follows:
1. There is no restriction to the residents of Iranaithivu to go to the Iranaithivu island.
2. There was an event which occurred in Iranaithivu on 14-02-2021 to commence an Export village.
At that time many non-residents also participated. If we need to get Navy boatsfor transportation, we have to inform on time to get the services. Otherwise, we do not have any restrictions as
3. As there is no Police post in Iranaithivu, The Navy is vigilant to prevent illegal activities as it is an isolated island. So, they want to prove the identity of non-residents who wish to go to Iranaithivu.
The voice of islanders
“This is Sri Lankan media and not a foreign one. Why can’t they allow you to go? You are here to find out people’s issues and stand for them. If you are not allowed, the protests our people do are in vain. Thus, the responsible authorities will not be aware of this burning issue. I think there is greater influence from the top government official.
Any news pertaining to this issue should be allowed to be published. As people of Iranaimathanagar we are not against the media entering the island.
We need the support of the media to bring this issue to the spotlight,” an island resident Jacob Anthony told Daily mirror.
Though we had boat passes yesterday we were not allowed to go to the island as our names were not in the list
It is the media who comes when there is an issue added another. “We never aim to arouse ethnic tension in this regard.
Though we had boat passes yesterday we were not allowed to go to the island as our names were not in the list. Even people who are born in Iranaithivu but are not in the list were not allowed to enter”