Sri Lanka police arrested Tamil legislator and Tamil National People’s Front leader Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam at his Colombo residence early on Wednesday, on charges of “obstructing police duties”, hours before the Jaffna MP was scheduled to raise a breach of privilege matter in Parliament. He was later released on bail.
The development comes days after two men dressed in plain clothes turned up at a meeting of Ponnambalam and members of a local sports club in Jaffna, in Sri Lanka’s Tamil-majority Northern Province, and reportedly assaulted him.
In a video statement released following the June 2 incident, the Jaffna legislator, who is the son of the late Tamil politician and lawyer Kumar Ponnambalam, said the men identified as CID officials, but refused to show their identity cards when asked. Ponnambalam further said, one of the men “assaulted” him when challenged, while another was seen “pointing a gun” at him.
“If this is how a member of Parliament is treated, then everyone can imagine how the general Tamil population in the north-east are treated… The police in the north and east continue to act as an occupational, hostile force,” he said.
Ahead of Wednesday’s arrest the police asked Ponnambalam to produce himself to the Maruthenkerni police in Jaffna to record a statement and obtained a magistrate court order banning the legislator from travel abroad until then.
However, the Tamil MP had sought time from the Parliamentary Speaker to raise the breach of privilege issue in the House on Wednesday.
Few MPs from the southern, Sinhala majority areas commented on the development. Fellow Jaffna parliamentarian from the Tamil National Alliance MA Sumanthiran said in a tweet: “Police insisting that @GGPonnambalam should go to #Maruthankerni today itself to make a statement or threatening to #arrest him is totally #illegal and violates his #privilege as an #MP. He is being prevented from attending the ongoing #Parliament sessions today. #repression.”