All public activity came to a standstill in northeastern Sri Lanka on Wednesday in protest against the Sri Lankan Supreme Court’s order to de-merge the Tamil-speaking Northern and Eastern provinces.
Sources in Batticaloa, Amparai, Trincomalee and Jaffna districts told Hindustan Times that government offices and schools did not function. There was no public transport.
Most of the shopkeepers in most towns in the ethnically mixed East, except in predominantly Muslim towns like Kattankudy, Sammanthurai and Akkarapattu, had downed their shutters.
Akkaraipattu is the stronghold of government minister Athaullah, who is a vocal advocate of de-merger.
But even in the predominantly Muslim towns, half of the shops were closed. Locals said this was probably because of Eid.
If some shops were open in the Tamil areas it was because the Karuna group, a breakaway group of the LTTE, assisted by the Security Forces, was going around forcing traders to open their establishments, said Ariyanenthiran, a Tamil National Alliance MP for Battialcoa district.
The Karuna group supports the de-merger in the interest of the Eastern Tamils, who, it says, are dominated by the Northern Tamils.
M Sahabdeen, a Muslim columnist based in the East, said that 90 per cent of the Muslims of the Eastern Province were against the de-merger because it would not help the Muslims.