The Uthayan newspaper runs a revealing story on its website which suggests that on 8th May, the campaign to collect a million signatures against the UN Panel’s report basically forced people to sign up to the campaign. Groundviews has already covered this bizarre, mindless campaign when it started in Colombo, before in fact the UN Panel’s report was officially released! The story in the Uthayan reveals that bereft of any public support, the minister and his goons are now ostensibly forcing people to sign their names, and this too in the regions most affected by war. Much like the outrageously wasteful ‘record breaking’ kiri-bath (milk rice) made to celebrate the President’s second term in office, this continuing display of insensitivity and brutishness by members of government speaks volumes. As we noted in our story on the signature campaign,

“This petition, and others that will invariably follow after the report’s official publication, is emblematic of Sri Lanka’s peculiar democracy, where highly emotive issues ratcheted up by expedient politicians with little or no grounding in actual fact are actually able to whip up mass appeal and support. Whether this is true over the long-term remains to be seen, but in the short-term, the mere fact that if successful, this petition will generate a million signatures of Sri Lankans who know little or nothing of what they oppose reflects the significant challenge of reconciliation and accountability, post-war.”

A translation into English of the Uthayan story follows, and is based on this Sinhala translation.

Unrest in Jaffna city yesterday afternoon: In pursuit of signatures

The campaign to generate signatures against the UN Panel’s report was in Jaffna yesterday (8th) and went in pursuit of people to get their signatures.

More details are as follows.

The campaign to collect signatures against the pointed allegations in the UN Panel’s report can be seen across the country. As one stage of this campaign, a programme to elicit signatures from the people of the North was organised yesterday under the leadership and presence of the Minister for Private Transport Ratnayake and his team in Jaffna.

This group forcibly generated signatures from the people in Kilinochchi, Mulaitivu and other places, and even gave promises that relief and aid would be provided if they signed up to the campaign. When they came to Jaffna, this group in Sundukuli and Columbaitur blocked the main road and forced people travelling on it to sign up for the campaign. People used alternative routes in order to avoid this group on the main road.

Under the full protection of the Army, this group shouting volubly slogans against the UN made their way towards the central bus stand in Jaffna. The group proceeded to go behind commuters waiting for buses and forced them to sign. The behaviour by this group caused consternation amongst civil society in Jaffna and also heightened anxiety and fear. Even before this, a multi-religious group had asked people in the North what they thought of the UN Panel’s report. The Minister and his group had come to Jaffna after this.