A racist mob has gathered in front of the private residence of Tamil National People’s Front (TNPF) MP Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam for the second consecutive day. The protestors have been openly chanting racist slogans, demanding the arrest of the MP.
These protests, which spanned two consecutive days, were led by the former hardline Sinhala nationalist party Sihala Urumaya and the current Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna MP, Udaya Gammanpila, along with Buddhist monks. The provocative actions of the mob have raised significant concerns about the security of the MP and prompted the deployment of police, Special Task Force (STF) personnel, and military units.
MP Udaya Gammanpila alleged that President Ranil Wickremasinghe had authorised the release of security services to provide protection to Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam. Gammanpila vehemently objected to this, claiming that the TNPF party leader had no right to remain an MP. He further threatened to storm the MP’s house, along with the agitated mob that had gathered in front of the residence to “chase him from his comfortable house in Colombo back to Jaffna.”
Photo courtesy of @Meerasrini on Twitter.com
In recent times, MP Gajendrakumar has been actively participating in protests against the ongoing Sinhalisation of the North-East.
One of the key concerns has been the construction of the tallest Buddhist temple in Thaiyiddy, Point Pedro, on private lands owned by families who were previously internally displaced due to the ethnic conflict. The Tamil National People’s Front has been consistently mobilising protests to demand the release of these lands to their rightful owners.
TNPF MPs were also present at the recent incident Kurunthurmalai, in Tannimurippu, Mullaitivu when Tamil devotees attempted to make pongal and dedicate it to their respective deity. The pongal ceremony, organised not only by the TNPF but also grassroots organisations, was conducted following the Mullaitivu Magistrate court giving Tamil devotees permission to conduct the ceremony. The ceremony was yet another attempt by the grassroots movement to push back against the rhetoric deployed by Sinhala nationalists that frame the archeological sites as belonging solely to the heritage of the Sinhala-Buddhist nation and therefore Sinhala-Buddhist people.
The ceremony was violently disrupted by the head monk of the illegally constructed Buddhist temple at Kurunthurmalai who had arrived at the archeological site with up to five bus loads of Buddhist devotees. Following this incident MP Gajendrakumar, along with MP Selvarasa Gajendendran, lodged complaints against the head monk and officials from the Archaeological Department, accusing them of instigating violence and exacerbating ethnic tensions.
Additionally, MP Gajendrakumar has been advocating for international intervention, particularly with expertise, in the excavation and exhumation of a mass grave discovered in Kokkuthoduvai, Mullaitivu, in June 2023.
The process has faced delays due to a lack of funding and expertise, sparking concerns of a potential cover-up regarding the grave’s findings. The excavation process has been delayed due to lack of funds and inadequate expertise to conduct investigation into the mass grave site. According to Tamil MPs across the spectrum the lack of due diligence on the part of state officials in charge of the investigating into the mass grave site can be seen as the sheer lack of political will to conduct a thorough investigation in order to cover up the culpability of the military, the then state officials, and the state itself.
In response to these incidents, MP Gajendrakumar has faced criticism and attacks from hardline Sinhala nationalist MPs during parliamentary debates. Some MPs have even called for the revocation of his parliamentary privileges.
Photo courtesy of @Meerasrini on Twitter.com
The two-day protest outside the MP’s residence appears to be the culmination of these attacks, highlighting the deep-seated racial tensions and challenges faced by Tamil politicians advocating for the demands articulated by the Tamil people in the island.
MP Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam has released a statement during a press conference stating that these protests were aimed at intimidating him and members of the Tamil National People’s Front. Further he said that neither he nor the TNPM is not against the Buddhist relion, people who follow Buddhism, or Sinhalese people; rather, the TNPF and the movement that the party is part of is against the 75 years of systemic oppression of Tamil people in the North-East and particularly the Sinhala colonisation that is ongoing in the Tamil homeland in the North-East. The party has consistently called out the lack of opportunities for economic development for people in the North-East.