A Sri Lankan minister representing Tamils of Indian Origin has expressed concern over the arrest of a large number of them just because they had not registered themselves with the police as per the Defence Ministry's regulations.
In the last few days, over 300 Tamils, including those of Indian Origin, had been arrested in and around Colombo and sent to the recently re-opened high security Boosa prison near Galle, said P Radhakrishnan, Deputy Minister for Vocational and Technical Training and a top leader of the Upcountry Peoples' Front, a party of Tamils of Indian Origin.
Forty-eight Tamils living in the predominantly Tamil areas in and around Colombo, such as Wellawatte, Grandpass, Kotehena, Wattala, Mount Lavinia and Mirihana had been sent to Boosa camp as per complaints received by him from their families, Radhakrishnan told Hindustan Times here on Monday.
Indian Origin Tamils account for about a million of Sri Lanka's population of 20 million, and live mainly in the plantations in the Centre and the South of the island, and Colombo district.
Arrests are taking place in the plantations in the interior of southern Sri Lanka also.
"A group of 18 young Tamils from the Ingiriya-Raigama plantations who were going from place to place singing Bhajans, and a lady from the Springvale plantation in Badulla were among those arrested and subsequently let off after investigations."
"This was because they had not registered themselves with the police stations in their respective areas," Radhakrishnan said.
Through the press, he has appealed to his people to register with the police immediately given the present tense situation in the country.
Suspect after bus blasts
Tamils, whether they are of Sri Lankan or of Indian origin, have become suspect since the recent bus blasts in Nittambuwa and Seenigama near Colombo, in which 21 civilians, mostly belonging to the majority Sinhala community, were killed.
"It is unfortunate that Indian Origin Tamils, who are mainly plantation labourers with no history of links with the LTTE are being arrested just because they had not registered with the local police, while Sinhalas are not touched unless there is concrete information about their involvement with the LTTE," Radhakrishnan said.
Sri Lanka enjoins all citizens, whether Sinhala, Tamil or Muslim, to register with the local police in a form prescribed by the Defence Ministry, though very few register because the National ID card is considered adequate at police check points.
"Getting the innocents released is not easy. In some cases, I had to go up to the President's Advisor," Radhakrishnan said.