B. Muralidhar Reddy

COLOMBO: Thousands of citizens from five war-torn districts in the north and living in and around Colombo lined up outside schools and places of worship on Sunday following a government directive to reregister with the police.

The controversial move has been criticised as “racial profiling” as an overwhelming majority of those being registered are Tamils. Police spokesman Ranjith Gunasekera said the government order would affect more than 1,00,000 people. As the registration process progressed, long queues could be seen. Some citizens complained that the forced registration was unfair and unlawful.

However, the government defended the order, saying on account of the no-holds-barred war against the LTTE, it has the responsibility to protect the lives of innocent people. There are apprehensions that a cornered LTTE could infiltrate the capital and resort to indiscriminate attacks, it added.

The order to register citizens living in and around Colombo for the past five years came days after Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa expressed concern over what he termed as influx of 6,950 “outsiders” into Colombo and its suburbs in August.

Appealing to those who staying in Colombo and its vicinity without any “valid reason” to return to their hometown, he had said the presence of large number of “outsiders” posed a security threat. These comments revived memories of the mass eviction of Tamils living in temporary lodges in June 2007. Acting on a petition, the Supreme Court stayed the eviction, ruling the government had no right to stop any citizen from living in any part of the country.

Ceylon Workers Congress leader Ramiah Yogarajan called the registration a “harassment of the peace-loving” and said some Tamil citizens feared they would be sent back after the registration. He accused the police of violating a court order, which prohibits serving summons to citizens for registration.

Mr. Gunasekara insisted the re-registration was legal and peaceful. “We have the sanction from the attorney-general,” he said, adding: “I visited some of the centres and the people are very happy.”

Meanwhile, the Air Force carried out four air raids “targeting terrorist gatherings” along the forward areas of the Wanni battlefront. Furthermore, helicopter raids were launched to support the Army’s 57 Division troops operating near Kilinochchi. According to battlefield reports, soldiers are currently engaged in a battle in the Kokavil area and over a dozen LTTE cadre have been killed.

Separately, the military alleged that suspect LTTE cadre gunned down the Knoeshwaram Hindu temple’s head priest, Sivakudaracha Kurukkal Sivakuharaja Kurukkal, in Trincomalee on Sunday.

Ex-President dead