The Tamil Civil War in Sri Lanka lasted from 1983 to 2009 and was fought between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a separatist group that sought to create an independent state for Tamils in the north and east of the country. The war ended with the defeat of the LTTE, but the legacy of the conflict continues to shape Sri Lankan politics and society.
Maaveerar Naal, or Heroes’ Day, is an annual day of remembrance for Tamils who died fighting in the war. It is commemorated on November 27, the day that LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran was killed in 2009.
The Sri Lankan government has long viewed Maaveerar Naal as a subversive event, and it has cracked down on commemorations in recent years. In 2020, the government banned all public commemorations of Maaveerar Naal, and police arrested and interrogated a number of people for participating in private commemorations.
Dileep Amuthan’s interrogation:
In November 2023, Sri Lankan police interrogated Dileep Amuthan, a journalist for the Jaffna-based newspaper Uthayan, for over four hours about a 2020 article he wrote about Maaveerar Naal. The article reported on the government’s crackdown on commemorations of the event, and it included quotes from Tamil activists who criticized the government’s actions.
Amuthan’s interrogation is part of a wider pattern of repression against Tamil journalists and civil society activists in Sri Lanka. The government has used the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), a draconian law that allows for indefinite detention without trial, to arrest and detain dozens of Tamils in recent years.
The significance of Amuthan’s interrogation:
Amuthan’s interrogation is significant because it shows that the Sri Lankan government is still targeting Tamil journalists and civil society activists who speak out about the legacy of the civil war. It also sends a chilling message to Tamil journalists and activists that they will be punished for reporting on sensitive topics.