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COLOMBO: Sri Lankan police blocked hundreds of minority Tamils from attending a protest rally in the capital yesterday in a clampdown condemned by the US embassy.
Buses carrying family members were prevented from leaving the northern town of Vavuniya to make a 260km (162mile) journey to Colombo to protest against extra-judicial killings, said activist and politician Mano Ganeshan.
“The protest was called off because nearly 1,000 people were not allowed to proceed from Vavuniya. Armed police and army threatened bus drivers with dire consequences if they moved.”
Military spokesman Brigadier Ruwan Wanigasooriya denied intimidation, but said police had “advised” bus operators against leaving in the interest of maintaining peace.
“Police stopped an organised movement of several buses following complaints of stoning of buses,” Wanigasooriya said. “If these buses also proceeded, they could have been attacked and there could have been clashes.”
The embassy said “all Sri Lankans should enjoy the same rights and live in dignity”.
It noted a “lack of progress” in ensuring basic human rights in Sri Lanka despite a UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution demanding improvement.
“Since last year’s resolution, the US has grown increasingly concerned by the lack of progress on these issues, as well as backsliding on other important areas of fundamental democratic rights,” it said in a statement.
Minority Tamils say thousands are still missing nearly four years after troops crushed Tamil Tiger rebels in May 2009 and ended 37 years of ethnic bloodshed. AFP