South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights


There was a sense of euphoria among government members when Parliament met in September 2011 with the much abhorred emergency regulations being lifted by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the previous month. Elated by the positive impact such a move had both in Sri Lanka and overseas, government members decided to bring an adjournment motion to Parliament titled “Acclamation on Withdrawal of State of Emergency” to thank the President  for the move. However, all was not as rosy as  it looked on the outside because  later in the month an attempt was made to  extend the term of a controversial  piece of legislation that would allow for detention of suspects for up to 48 hours without  being produced before a Magistrate. However, due to wrangling on a technical issue, this was temporarily put off. Lifting the State of Emergency also led to calls from some opposition parties to do away with the dreaded Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), with harsh laws which are still being used to arrest, detain and keep suspects for prolonged periods in custody without trial.

Jaffna ‘grease yakas’ and the Security Forces

Parliament session began on September 6, 2011 with Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe making a special statement to the House on the “Restoration of Law and Order in the Jaffna Peninsula”. Mr. Wickremesinghe referred to the continuing phenomena of “grease yakas”, a group of men covering themselves in tar who were said to be terrorizing the people in the Jaffna peninsula. “There are well over 50,000 security force personnel stationed in Jaffna. Twenty five to thirty per cent of the land is within the High Security Zones. There are many checkpoints and patrolling that takes place round the clock. This is sufficient to apprehend the “grease yakas,” he said.

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