Is being Tamil a crime?

By K. Arvind

Young Sivaramya Sivanathan, an employee of Govt.-owned SLBC and a niece of a senior public servant and former adviser to several Ministers and the last President and daughter of a Human Rights Lawyer, suspected of a plot to assassinate Mangala Samaraweera, was ordered to be remanded at the Welikada Prisons.

The fact that Ministers and the like today are obsessed with assassinations is a factor that certainty worked against her eventual trauma. She produced her NIC, Media Accreditation Card and SLBC identity. Her immediate superior at the Broadcasting Corporation intervened with the Police on her behalf and confirmed her legitimate role at the SLBC. Yet, while ladies of other communities were ushered into the function hall without invitation cards, Sivaramya was condemned to the indignity of incarceration.

There was nothing in her person to suggest she was on the deadly mission she was accused of. If basic decency was at work here, she should have been released with an apology. Was the fact that she was a Tamil that made the difference? A memory that she will carry with pain the rest of her life? Ironically, on International Press Freedom Day, this young lass was humiliated, subject to terror by being handed over to policemen and remanded for days in the company of murderers, killers, sexual degenerates and the mentally ill at this prison.

The blood of Tamil political prisoners held in a so-called “high security zone” of this prison was shed by fellow prisoners in the false belief that they were performing a patriotic act. That this innocent lass being confined to this dreadful place and to its unfortunate and unenviable company may bring fearsome memories of the July ‘83 events to her young mind should have been obvious to the lesser mortals in the judicial process.

Although it was clear that there was no evidence to suggest mischief on her part, the officials had the option of detaining the girl elsewhere without sending her to the Welikada prisons.

In this sea of racial hatred, fortunately, humanism was not totally lost. For some of those fighting for her release are decent men like Sunanda Deshapriya, Convener of the Free Media Movement. Deshapriya and his colleagues, we are pleased to learn, not only fought for Sivaramya’s immediate release but also lodged their protest by refusing to attend the formal dinner. Expressing his disgust in this tasteless episode was Chris Warren, President of the IFJ, who observed, “The arrest of a journalist at an event designed to celebrate and promote freedom of the press raises serious concerns about the independence of the media and their ability to move freely and perform their duties of reporting”.

The least that can be done to set right the enormous wrong done to this young lady and the collective concerns of the Tamils who followed her suffering with deep concern will be to offer her an apology – not excluding damages for her frightful ordeal caused by misdirected action. [Source: DailyMirror]

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