Opposition MLA Selvarajah Kazendran has been arrested for campaigning on behalf of the minority community to remember the dead rebel.
Sri Lankan police have arrested a Tamil lawmaker in memory of separatist rebels who died campaigning for the minority community, just hours after President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa called for reunification among ethnic groups.
Opposition MLA Selvarajah Kazendran was gathered in a police car on Thursday on the North Jaffna Peninsula, the heartland of Tamils, despite a protest by spectators at the Tiger Rebel Thilapan memorial.
As video footage shared on social media showed, Kazendran, 46, resisted arrest and was eventually forced into a car with two of his colleagues in Nallur, 360 kilometers (225 miles) north of Colombo.
Nallu police have confirmed that the Tamil National People’s Front MP was detained at the memorial, which was held near a temple where Thilaipan died after going on a hunger strike in 1987.
There was no immediate comment from his party, but Sri Lanka’s main Tamil party, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), has condemned the police move.
“I condemn the arrest of MP Selvarajah Kazendran [Nallur] Jaffna is exercising the right to #memory today, ”TNA spokesman Abraham Sumantiran said on Twitter.
The arrests come hours after Rajapaksa pledged at the UN General Assembly in New York to address the root causes of the three-decade-long Tamil separatist war in 2004.
Rajapaksa was the top defense official at the time and played a key role in crushing the Tamil Tigers, who controlled one-third of the island in the height of their power.
The government has banned the remembrance of the rebels, although the UN Human Rights Council has repeatedly called on Colombo to allow Tamils to mourn the dead of their wars.
Sri Lanka has also resisted international calls for an investigation into allegations that government troops killed at least 1,000,000 Tamil civilians in the last months of the war.
However, on Wednesday, Rajapaksa said at the UN session that he wanted to work towards ethnic reconciliation.
“Achieving lasting peace requires greater accountability, restorative justice and meaningful reconciliation through domestic institutions,” he said.
“It is my Government’s determination to build a prosperous, stable and secure future for all Sri Lankans, regardless of race, religion or gender.”
Dozens of people hoisted the Tamil Tiger flag outside the UN building while speaking at Rajapaksa.
In talks with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres earlier in the day, Rajapaksa said he was inviting Tamils abroad to join the talks to ensure ethnic peace in the country.