Northern and eastern Sri Lanka were brought to a standstill Friday by a protest to demand the release of some 200 suspected former Tamil rebels, officials said.
Transport services were crippled and attendance in schools and businesses was low as the police and armed forces were put on alert in the areas, which are dominated by minority Tamils.
The Tamil National Alliance organized the protest, demanding that the government either charges the suspects or releases them under a general amnesty.
The suspects were taken into custody under the Prevention of Terrorism Act for their alleged links with the former rebels of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
The LTTE was defeated in 2009 after a 26-year civil war in which they were fighting for an independent state.
As part of a compromise, the government Wednesday agreed to release 38 suspects on bail after producing them in court, but all failed to meet the bail conditions.
The suspects have been in custody for several years with some of them being detained for more than 15 years without their cases being heard.
After the end of the conflict, Sri Lanka granted an amnesty to some 12,000 people who either surrendered or were arrested over their alleged links with the Tamil rebels.
Some of the radical political parties in the south representing the majority Sinhala community oppose the granting of further amnesties to these prisoners.
The protest campaign was the first to be held after country’s President Maithripala Sirisena was elected in January largely helped by minority Tamil votes.