The Sunday Leader

Jaffna Public Library Comes Under Attack, Again

  • Presidential Secretariat Allegedly Involved

By Dinouk Colombage

Pandemonium reigned in Jaffna when the Public Library was stormed by hundreds of unarmed assailants on October 23.
Hundreds of people in over 30 buses stormed the library at about 7 pm, says retired Municipal Council Commissioner C.V.K Sivagnanam in a letter to President Rajapaksa, dated October 27.
The Sunday Leader sought clarification from TNA M.P. Suresh Premachandran. He corroborated the story as written in the letter by Sivagnanam to the President to be accurate.
When questioned on the identity of the assailants he claimed that they claimed to be members of the Presidential Secretariat. However, he maintains that the security forces were not involved in the incident but only attempted to calm the situation.  “They however were unable to do so due to the insufficient number of troops,” he said. He went on to criticize the government for not having provided sufficient security for the Tamils in Jaffna.
Military Spokesman Major General Ubhaya Medawela claimed that no incident had been reported involving security forces.
The persons identified themselves as being from the Presidential Secretariat when staff and security guards prevented them from entering, according to Sivagnanam. He asserts that despite pleas from staff present the men forcibly entered the library, with the assistance of security personnel. After entering, the mob went on a rampage, removing books from their shelves and strewing them across the floor.
This incident was witnessed by numerous people, as the library auditorium was hosting the annual convention of the Sri Lanka Medical Association.
The Sunday Leader was unable to contact Sivagnanam for a comment on the letter. However, a Municipal Council employee, who requested anonymity, claimed to have witnessed the entire incident. He was unable to confirm or deny if the assailants were indeed from the Presidential Secretariat, as he had not been present when they identified themselves to staff members at the library. He said however that the mob, dressed in plainclothes, arrived in a number of buses, filling up an already overcrowded parking lot.
Although Sivagnanam said in his letter that security forces had assisted the attackers, the Municipal Council employee told The Sunday Leader that they had in fact attempted to disperse the large crowd following the altercation between library staff and the mob.
He added that the security personnel had been stationed at a nearby checkpoint. They had tried to restore order, he claimed, but were too few in number to effectively intervene. The official had not entered the library itself and so was unable to comment on the events that had allegedly transpired inside the premises.
Police arrived at the scene shortly afterwards but were too late in apprehending any suspects as they had already fled the scene. When contacted by The Sunday Leader  police in Jaffna stated that due to this being an ongoing investigation they were unable to comment. Attempts to contact the Presidential Secretariat led to officials passing the call back and forth from the media division without any comment being made.
The Sunday Leader also contacted the Governor General Major General G. A. Chandrasiri’s office in Jaffna to obtain details of the incident. They refused to comment instead redirecting all questions to the Presidential Secretariat in Colombo who once again claimed to have no knowledge of the incident.
Presidential Secretary, Lalith Weeratunga, could not be reached for comment.
Police Spokesperson Preshantha Jayakody denied any knowledge of the incident.

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