Trade unions and student groups held demonstrations in the north, declaring it as a ‘black day’ to protest militarization, land seizure etc., on an idea by original settlers of Pilavkudirippu in Mullaitivu who have lost their land to the Air Force.
After being informed by the government the AF had released their land after seven years of occupation, they had gone to their home village only to find that they had been deceived once again.
Staging an indefinite sit-down protest in front of the AF camp in the area, they demanded the president immediately mediated and ensured the return of their land.
As their woes were left unanswered, February 04 had been declared as a ‘black day’ for the north.
NPC councilor K. Sivajilingam said militarization and land seizures, absence of justice for the more than 20,000 missing and continued imprisonment of political prisoners were highlighted during their protests.
Parallel to the official ceremony in Colombo to mark the 69th independence anniversary, a celebration by the armed forces took place in Jaffna town.
Protest march in Colombo
In the south, trade unions marked an ‘alternative independence day’ on the theme of making workers’ rights meaningful.
Representing free trade zones, estates, electricity, education and the media, the participants held a protest in front of Viharamaha Devi Park in Colombo and held a meeting at the National Library auditorium.
They mainly drew attention to the issues of Telecom manpower workers, the SAITM and repression of the media.
CMU secretary Sylvester Jayakody said the reality of independence was made clear by the 40-day struggle by 1,700 workers demanding permanency at Telecom, which is headed by the brother of the country’s president.
Also, 30 workers had been accused of being ‘dangerous’ and sacked for having formed a trade union at a company at Katunayake owned by a family member of the finance minister, he said.
Jayakody went onto say government minister Dayasiri Jayasekara had called north’s chief minister C.V. Vigneswaran a ‘dog’, and it showed the government was not allowing the people the right to freedom of expression.
For the government, there is freedom to mark independence by displaying military might, to stage teargas attacks, obtain court orders, make arrests and send people behind bars, he added.