Repression of Dissent in Sri Lanka: 1st July – 30th September 2015

Repression of Dissent in Sri Lanka: 1st July – 30th September 2015 

Summary:

The three month period was marked by two significant events – the Parliamentary elections held on 17th August and the events related to Sri Lanka at the 30th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in September – October 2015.

 

At the elections, the defeat of former President Rajapakse and his allies was re-established when the United National Party led alliance swept into power.  This was widely recognised as stepping stone to more democratic form of governance in the coming years.

 

The Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) which INFORM is also part of, reported 856 election violence related incidents including 146 major incidents with 4 murders. At General elections held in 2010, total number of incidents reported was 414 incidents with 232 major incidents of election violence. The number of incidents reported is increased, though the major incidents of violence have been reduced. This context also needs to be recognized with the dynamics of a post-war society, where nationalist, racist ideologies were popularized with the censorship and sponsorship of the state under the previous regime. Though the regime has been changed, many of the politicians joined the hands with new national government.

 

The attention the shifted to Geneva – where the report of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the OHCHR Investigation on Sri Lanka (OISL) were released on 16th September, after having been deferred from March 2015, at the request of the new Sri Lankan government. The OHCHR and OISL reports highlighted widespread and systemic abuses by both parties to the conflict, continuing violations in 2015, widespread impunity and emphasized that despite positive changes in 2015, the Sri Lankan criminal justice system was incapable of ensuring accountability. Thus, a Special Hybrid Court with participation of international judges, prosecutors, lawyers and investigators was amongst the recommendations that was highlighted. A consensus resolution was adopted by the Human Rights Council, which the Sri Lankan government also co-sponsored. The resolution’s tone appeared to appease the new Sri Lankan government and didn’t give the same emphasis to serious allegations highlighted in the OHCHR – OISL reports. But the resolution contained some significant commitments by the Sri Lankan government towards human rights protection, even though the key OHCHR recommendation of establishment of a Special Hybrid Court was left in ambiguity.

 

As has been the trend, incidents of repression of dissent continued to be reported, especially from the Northern part of the country. But the number of incidents and the intensity was much less than in 2014 and years before. The period also saw some significant breakthroughs and arrests in relation to disappearance of journalist and cartoonist Prageeth Ekneligoda, with several military personnel being arrested. However, there was no progress in investigations, prosecutions and convictions for most cases of repression of dissent in last few years.

English: Repression of Dissent in Sri Lanka by INFORM – July-Sept 2015-English (24Oct2015)

සිංහල: Repression of Dissent in Sri Lanka by INFORM – July-Sept2015-Sinhala (24Oct2015)

தமிழ்: Repression of Dissent in Sri Lanka by INFORM – July-Sept 2015-Tamil (24Oct2015)

Repression of Dissent in Sri Lanka: 1-30 June 2015

Repression of Dissent in Sri Lanka: 01-30 June 2015

Summary:

Few incidents of repression of dissent continued to be reported across Sri Lanka in June 2015, with most being reported from the North and East.

In Jaffna, journalists invited for a meeting to discuss resettlement were ejected from the meeting venue. Villagers protesting against the building up of a Buddhist Temple by the military in the Mullaitivu district were arrested and detained for several hours. Surveillance and intimidations related to freedom of assembly was reported from Batticaloa and the East. Organizers, participants and supporters of protests against sexual violence against women and children were subjected to intimidations before, during and after the protests.

The Terrorist Investigation Department (TID) and Attorney General’s department continued to refuse to close the investigation against INFORM’s Human Rights Advisor, Ruki Fernando. They have also refused to remove the gag order and return his confiscated communication equipment, though the 15 month old travel restriction against him was lifted on 30th June.

Even though the intensity and number of incidents related to repression of dissent appear to have reduced in June 2015 compared to previous years, the continuing reports of such incidents and impunity related to old incidents is worrisome.

English: Repression of Dissent in Sri Lanka-01-30June2015-English(13Aug2015)

සිංහල: Repression of Dissent in Sri Lanka-01-30June2015-Sinhala(13Aug2015)

தமிழ்: Repression of Dissent in Sri Lanka-01-30June2015-Tamil(13Aug2015)

Repression of Dissent in Sri Lanka: 20 April – 31 May 2015

Repression of Dissent in Sri Lanka: 20 April – 31 May 2015 (post-100 days of the new Presidency)

Summary:

Incidents related to repression of dissent continued to be reported under the Sirisena Presidency, despite a general feeling of having more freedom than under the Rajapakse presidency.

In mid May 2015, Police obtained court orders to prevent remembrance events for Tamils killed during the war. Police also interrogated organizers, participants and media at some events, compelled organizers to change venue, and subjected remembrance events to heavy surveillance. Bus owners had also been intimidated not to transport people to such events. Earlier in May, a Northern Provincial Council member was summoned by Police to be questioned in relation to an allegation he had lighted lamps to remember the LTTE in November 2014.

Journalists were arrested and summoned for interrogation, assaulted by a local politician and prevented from covering a meeting related to water contamination. Two academics were assaulted during a May Day rally in Colombo and the Vice Chancellor of the Jaffna University had refused to grant permission to a discussion of a book by an award winning human rights defender and academic, on issues related to the war in Sri Lanka. In India, a film based on the life of slain LTTE TV presenter was banned.

Police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse protesters in two locations. In Jaffna, hundreds of protesters were arrested as protests against rape and murder of teenaged school girl turned violent. Local activists told INFORM that several of those arrested were those not involved in the violence. Police also obtained at least two court orders prohibiting protests in relation this incident. A senior Police officer used abusive language against an elderly woman who was protesting peacefully and trying to engage in a dialog with the police. The same officer also threatened a person who was taking a video of the incident. The Deputy Minister of Justice told media that new laws would be brought in to restrict protests to certain areas only.

A driver of a three wheeler (taxi) who transported a loudspeaker for a protest by university students was arrested and two university students involved in a protest were also reported arrested. A Magistrate also issued summons on 27 politicians aligned to the previous President, for engaging in a protest outside the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption.

English: https://ihrdc.files.wordpress.com/2015/06/repression-of-dissent-in-sri-lanka-20april-31may2015-english23jun2015.pdf

සිංහල: https://ihrdc.files.wordpress.com/2015/06/repression-of-dissent-in-sri-lanka-20april-31may2015-sinhala-23june2015.pdf

தமிழ்: https://ihrdc.files.wordpress.com/2015/06/repression-of-dissent-in-sri-lanka-20april-31may2015-tamil23june2015.pdf

Repression of Dissent in Sri Lanka: 9th January – 19th April 2015

In the first 100 days of the new Presidency, 9th January – 19th April 2015

Summary:

Compared to 2014 and the Rajapakse rule, the intensity and number of attacks, threats and intimidations against dissent has decreased during the first 100 days of Sirisena’s Presidency. However, very little action appears to have been taken to deal with the impunity of past incidents, and alarmingly, there were several incidents of suppression of dissent.

In the hill country, Police were accused of violently dispersing a protest with tear gas, when they had gathered at the Talawakelle Police Custody to condemn the death of a man in the custody of the Talawakelle Police.

In Colombo, civil and political activists distributing leaflets on 19th February were attacked by members of the pro-Rajapaksa National Freedom Front (NFF) at Nugegoda. The leaflets contained the text, “Ten Questions for Wimal Weerawansa and Vasudeva prior to the Yakshagamanaya” and were distributed by members of the Democratic People’s Forum. The Inter-University Students’ Federation (IUSF)’s protest march was attacked on 31st March by the Police and the Special Task Force, with some students injured and hospitalized. The Defense Ministry informed the director of a film about the slain journalist Richard de Zoysa that the subject matter would be inappropriate, as it recalls an unpleasant past, and informed the director that he will not be given permission to shoot the film.

In the North, Sri Lankan military dressed in civilian warned the displaced people in a military run high security zone against discussing their living conditions with the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister, Hugo Swire. A distributor of the Tamil weekly, Ithu Nam Theasam, a pro Tamil National People’s Front (TNPF) paper, was threatened by military intelligence. In another incident in the North, drunk police officers in jerseys stopped three journalists, threatened them with knives and chased after them. Perhaps for the first time in history, a journalist (specifically, a Tamil journalist from North) was arrested and detained by Police for “providing false information for the publication of a news item.” The Terrorist Investigation Division (TID) also summoned the Chairman of the Vavuniya Citizens Committee, while the activist Buddhist monk Ven. Wataruka Vijitha Thero was harassed by police officers.

Journalists of two private TV stations accused each other of illegal entry and assault respectively. Several persons were arrested and equipment was confiscated in Colombo, based on the accusation that they were cooperating with UK-based Channel 4 TV station, which has earlier produced documentaries accusing the Sri Lankan military of war crimes. One of the accused had an overseas travel restriction placed upon them.

It was reported that a journalist was assaulted in Puttlam, in relation to reports of individuals attempting to sell government lands.

While the detention without charge of the Woman human rights defender Balendran Jeyakumari ended on the 10th March, an overseas travel restriction was imposed on her and she was required to report monthly to a police station. Investigations in her case continue. Restrictions on freedom of expression and movement of INFORM’s human rights adviser Ruki Fernando continue, and the investigation against him is also still ongoing.

For full reports with summary of each incident, see:

English:Repression of Dissent in Sri Lanka – 100 days of new Presidency – INFORM report – English (24May2015)

සිංහල:Repression of Dissent in Sri Lanka – 100 days of new Presidency – INFORM report – Sinhala(24May2015)

தமிழ்: Repression of Dissent in Sri Lanka – 100 days of new Presidency – INFORM report – Tamil (24May2015)

 

Repression of Dissent in Sri Lanka: 22 November 2014 – 31 January 2015

Election Special Edition (22 November 2014 – 31 January 2015)

Summary:

2014 was a year that saw large scale repression of dissent. Then, on 22nd November, based on a request by the then President Rajapakse, the Elections Commissioner announced that presidential elections would be held on 8th January 2015. A few days before, Rajapakse’s Health Minister, and General Secretary of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, Mr. Maithripala Sirisena, announced that he will contest the presidential elections as the “Common Opposition Candidate”, representing the National Democratic Front (NDF). From then onwards, many politicians from the ruling United Peoples Freedom Alliance (UPFA) started to defect and pledged support to Sirisena. The main opposition, the United National Party (UNP), two small but influential parties with the Sinhalese – Buddhist population, the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) and the Democratic Party (DP), also pledged their support to Sirisena. The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), also influential with rural Sinhalese – Buddhists, effectively supported the Sirisena camp without explicitly saying so, with their vocal and consistent critique of the Rajapakse regime. Later, the two main parties representing the minorities, the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) also pledged support to Sirisena. Lawyers, Academics, Artists, Journalists, NGOs and influential Buddhist and Christian clergy also started to support the Sirisena campaign covertly and overtly. Thus, the Rajapakse camp were left with state media, state resources, military, police and other state institutions to back up their campaign. This report doesn’t cover the widespread use and abuse of state resources by the Rajapakse camp, but focuses on the repression of opposition political politicians, their supporters, and academics, artists, human rights activists, journalists which began from the time elections were announced. The main opposition candidate and his two most high profile supporters, the opposition leader and former president were themselves attacked. At least two persons were killed in election related violence and many were injured. Many also got death threats. There were also number of attacks on party officers, houses, business establishments and vehicles belonging to opposition politicians and their supporters. Polling Agents and Election monitors were also attacked and threatened. Senior journalists were subjected to interrogation and death threats. Artists and human rights defenders who were supporting the Common Opposition candidate were also attacked and threatened. The vast majority of victims of election violence till the election day were supporters of the Common Opposition candidate. Electoral violence pattern changed dramatically after the victory of the Common Opposition candidate. The days after the elections saw high profile supporters of the losing candidate, former President Rajapakse, complaining of death threats, intimidations and of witch hunt alleging violence, corruption and other malpractices. These included the President’s son, himself a Member of Parliament. Supporters of President Rajapakse and their properties were attacked. Within weeks, lawyers and civil society led agitations finally led to restoration in office of the 43rd Chief Justice, who was impeached unconstitutionally under the Rajapakse regime. Isolated incidents of hounding Tamil activists were reported in the North after elections. But overall, towards latter part of January, reports of incidents of repression of dissent reduced dramatically compared to 2014. For full reports with summary table of incidents, see: English:Repression of Dissent in Sri Lanka – 22Nov2014 – 31Jan2015 – Election Special Edition – English – 08March2015 සිංහල:Repression of Dissent in Sri Lanka – 22Nov2014 – 31Jan2015 – Election Special Edition – Sinhala – 08March2015 தமிழ்: Repression of Dissent in Sri Lanka – 22Nov2014 – 31Jan2015 – Election Special Edition – Tamil – 08March2015

Repression of Dissent in Sri Lanka – November 2014

Summary: After months of speculation, the Presidential election was officially announced for the 8th of January 2015, nearly two years ahead of schedule. The General Secretary of the ruling party, a very senior party stalwart and a Minister in the Rajapakse Presidency, was chosen by a coalition of opposition parties as the “joint opposition candidate”. Repression of opposition politicians and their supporters began almost immediately. The temple of the leader of the Jathika Hela Urumaya, Ven, Athuraliye Rathana Thero, was surrounded by an angry mob days after the party announced it was quitting ministerial positions in the ruling coalition. A local council member of Sri Lanka’s main Opposition United National Party (UNP) was shot in the head during an attack on a vehicle convoy. According to news reports, “intelligence and political operatives” operating under the direct command of President’s brothers, Secretary to the Ministry of Defence, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, the Minister of Economic Development, Basil Rajapaksa, have been trying to woo grassroots Tamil members of the civic bodies in the North and East to the side of the ruling party. One such Civic member in North was given the option of crossing over to the ruling party if he wanted his son released from custody. In the North as well as in other parts of the country, Freedom of Expression was also under threat. Sri Lanka’s private television service providers blocked the common opposition candidate’s first TV interview on the 22nd of November. Military intelligence personnel tried to threaten the Jaffna Press Club not to provide space for the political party Jaanatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), which had severely criticized the incumbent government and the President. A Tamil parliamentarian accused the Army of threatening and questioning Tamil journalists in the Northern province and compelling a training workshop for journalists that scheduled to be held in the Jaffna district to be cancelled. The ‘Aththa’ newspaper, a publication of the Communist Party of Sri Lanka was withdrawn from circulation and its newspaper office sealed on 7th of November by the Party high command. Ms. Mauri Inoka Jayasinghe, a mother who has been fighting for accountability and justice for her abducted and disappeared husband, Madushka Haris de Silva was herself abducted on 1st of November in Anuradhapuru town. She had been subjected to threats several times in the preceding months. The group ‘Blue Brigade’, a political movement headed by president’s son MP Namal Rajapaksa, attacked students of Inter University Students Federation who were collecting signatures against privatization of education. As in the past, Military personnel ensured a severe crackdown on Tamils in the North and the East, during and in the lead up to “Heroes day”, the day of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and birthday of the of the LTTE leader Prabakaran, celebrated on the 27th and 26th of November respectively. On the 3rd of November, hand-written posters carrying death threats against the Jaffna University Teachers’ Association (JUTA) President and four student activists were found pasted in the vicinity of the university. Two ‘surveillance centers’ were reported to have been created near the University of Jaffna, with the primary task being to block activists and students from marking Heroes Day on 27th of November. The University of Jaffna was officially closed from 26th of November to the 1st of December after the Sri Lankan Army stepped up its presence and pressure on the university community. Hundreds of heavily armed military personnel were reported to have taken full control of both entrances of the university and ordered all the students to vacate the university, including hostels. The Terrorist Investigation Division (TID) of the Police was reported to have ordered the security guards of Jaffna University to submit records of the lecturers and students, who were present inside the campus premises on Heroes Day on the 27th of November. The University administration was also instructed to comply with the TID to identify the students behind the move. On the same day, the Military was deployed in front of the destroyed Heroes memorial statue inside the University had also increased foot patrol and random road checks in the area. Sri Lankan intelligence officers were reported as preparing to investigate “the Uthayan”, leading Tamil newspaper in the Northern Province, alleging that the newspaper had celebrated LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran’s birthday. ’Terrorist’ Investigation Division (TID) of the Police interrogated a young Tamil activist, for alleged possession of Tamil Eelam Heroes Day posters, and he was reported as arrested by soldiers on the night of the 25th of November. The Tamil National People’s Front’s (TNPF) office was surrounded by Sri Lankan military personnel on the afternoon of the 26th of November, with Intelligence officers stationed at the office door. On the 25th of November, Sri Lankan military intelligence chased away devotees who had gathered for a pooja at the Pi’l’laiyaar temple (Hindu) at Munnam-poadi-veddai in Moothoor West in Trincomalee district, alleging that the Tamil devotees had gathered to pay tribute to Tamil (LTTE) Heroes. The soldiers smashed the pot in which the Saiva devotees were preparing ritual milk rice (Pongkal). Unidentified gunmen shot dead a man in Vellankulam in the Mannar district on the night of the 12th of November. The victim, 34 year old Naguleshwaran Krishnasuwamy, was reported to have been engaged in encouraging Tamils to submit evidence to the ongoing UN inquiry on Sri Lanka. Another reason cited by media for the killing was his refusal to meet Military intelligence officers demands to provide information about non-rehabilitated LTTE cadres or supporters in the region. Although Police had announced investigations into some of the incidents, there have been no updates on actual results and like in past, impunity appears to be order of the day. There is unlikely to be any investigation into abuses by the military. For full reports with summary table of incidents, see: English: Repression of Dissent in Sri Lanka – November 2014 – English (13Jan2015) සිංහල: Repression of Dissent in Sri Lanka – November 2014 – Sinhala (13Jan2015) தமிழ்: Repression of Dissent in Sri Lanka – November 2014 – Tamil (13Jan2015)

Repression of Dissent in Sri Lanka – October 2014

Summary:

As the deadline for submissions for the UN Human Rights Council appointed investigation into alleged violations of international human rights and humanitarian law approached, a Tamil person in the North was arrested and several others were searched and compelled to hide, for attempting to cooperate with the UN investigation. The Presidentially appointed Governor of the Northern Province sought “clarification” into why an outspoken Tamil Councilor of the Northern Provincial Council had asked for an extension of the deadline for submissions for the UN investigation. Media reported that the government has launched an investigation into the Tamil National Alliance’s (TNA) alleged “plot to provide unsubstantiated information to UN war crimes investigators” and that emails to the investigation team would be monitored. Well-known human rights defenders were labeled as terrorist sympathizers by a Sinhalese newspaper, accused of sending information to the UN investigation team and supporting the revival of the LTTE. The President of the Vavuniya Citizens Committee in the North was assaulted and had to be hospitalized after he was involved in a protest campaign to free a Tamil woman HRD detained without charges since March 2014.

A group of opposition parliamentarians and two journalists were attacked by a mob when they visited the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) Security Training Institute at Slave Island on a fact-finding mission. There were harassments and obstacles to an event on journalism organized by Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL), with the senior staff, their family members, resource persons and participants receiving threatening phone calls and SMS messages. The Military harassed a monthly Tamil newspaper which stands for the right to self-determination, demanding that the printers alert them before printing the paper. A distributor of the paper was interrogated at a Military camp and later assaulted. A senior Tamil journalist and press freedom activist in Jaffna was also subjected to interrogation. An injunction was issued against a strike by railway employees while Trade Union leaders and protesting fisher folks were attacked physically. A poster was put up discrediting human rights defenders involved in organizing an annual remembrance for disappeared persons and one of their houses was stoned the night before the event. Student activists involved in protests were attacked at least three times in three separate places and incidents, causing injuries to many students. The Minister for Higher Education discredited students again, referring to them as “flies” and 12 students were arrested in relation to the Minister’s visit to a university.

Freedom of movement was curtailed against those who were considered as persons who could pass critical comments against the government. On two separate occasions, a wife and a mother of a Tamil man, who was killed for allegedly being involved in attempting to revive the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), were prevented from going abroad, although they possessed valid visas and had no formal court orders restricting overseas travel. Foreign passport holders were barred from travelling to most parts of the war-ravaged Northern Province without permission of the Ministry of Defense, and a UN official was turned back when going for an event related to the World Food Day.

The Police, Military and the Government were directly implicated in many of the incidents, while other incidents were perpetrated by “unidentified persons / groups” who appeared to have links to the Defense establishment. Based on media reports, the Government and Police have not taken decisive actions to arrest and prosecute those responsible for any of the incidents.

For full reports with summary table of incidents, see:

English: Repression of Dissent in Sri Lanka – INFORM report – Oct2014-English(09Dec2014)

සිංහල: Repression of Dissent in Sri Lanka – INFORM report – Oct2014-Sinhala(09Dec2014)

தமிழ்: Repression of Dissent in Sri Lanka – INFORM report – Oct2014-Tamil(09Dec2014)

 

Repression of Dissent in Sri Lanka – September 2014

Summary:
September was a month that saw almost daily incidents of repression of dissent. A commemoration planned for a well-known woman human rights defender and academic, Dr. Rajani Thiranagama, was obstructed when two pre-booked venues were withdrawn and a protest march was banned by the Police. A prayer service for displaced Tamils in the district of Jaffna was banned, and Police in Batticaloa obtained court orders to ban commemorations for persons killed twice within two weeks.

In Colombo, two human rights lawyers received death threats and opposition trade unionists were assaulted. The Military obstructed journalists from trying to report on the situation in the Aluthgama area where anti-Muslim riots took place in June. Journalists covering the post-election situation in the Uva province were assaulted, one of the men was hospitalized for several weeks due to his serious injuries. A Northern Tamil journalist narrowly escaped death and a Tamil media activist in Jaffna was subjected to continuous questioning, intimidation and harassment. A Tamil Catholic Priest in Jaffna was questioned after he wrote a poetry book about his war time experiences and a number of school Principals were also questioned for receiving the book. Pressure by extremist groups led to the withdrawal of a literary award to a Sinhalese writer now living in exile due to death threats, due to his criticial political views of the government. The four (out of five) judges who chose him as the awardee were also discredited by an extremist writer supportive of the government.

A training workshop for web journalists was disrupted in Negombo. A civil society organized meeting in Trincomalee was also disrupted when venues were withdrawn twice and the meeting was subjected to surveillance. An Australian University admitted to un-inviting two prominent Sri Lankan human rights defenders after they were invited to participate in an international conference, due to pressure from the Ministry of Defence. Police unleashed water cannons and tear gas to supress a peaceful protest by Catholics over a statue. When a protest calling for the release of a prominent anti-disappearance campaigner whose son had disappeared was held in Colombo, a group that held a counter protest distributed leaflets portraying her as a terrorist supporter, despite there being no charges brought against her 200 days after being detained. A banner displayed at the counter-protest showcased photos of 8 human rights defenders depicting them as traitors.

Student activists also faced suppression. Protesting students were threatened and protest banners were destroyed by the Chairman of the Moneragela Pradeshiya Saba. Police surrounding the Buddhist and Pali University searched the premises and demanded the handover of 4 student leaders. Opposition parties were subjected to a series of attacks and intimidation in the lead up to the elections in the Uva Province and there was a call for lists of opposition party activists working as government officials, which was seen as an initial move to persecute them for their political affiliations. Secretary to the Ministry of Defence accused a leading Tamil political party of causing political turmoil and encouraging separatist sentiments. The Deputy British High Commissioner was watched when she visited the Eastern Province and some of the people she met were questioned afterwards. A family that was visited by the British High Commissioner in the North was also questioned.

There were no visible attempts by authorities to address the continuing incidents of suppression of dissent. As before, government politicians, government officials, police, military, state media and journalists sympathetic to the government appear to be responsible for most reported incidents in September, and relevant institutions, such as the Police, appear unwilling to take actions even when complaints are made.

For full reports with summary table of incidents, see:

English: Repression of Dissent in Sri Lanka – Sept 2014 -English (23Oct2014)

සිංහල: Repression of Dissent in Sri Lanka – Sept 2014 – Sinhala (24Oct2014)

தமிழ்: Repression of Dissent in Sri Lanka – Sept 2014 – Tamil (24Oct2014)

Repression of Dissent – August 2014

Summary:

August 30th is the International Day of victims of Enforced Disappearances, but in Sri Lanka, it was a month when families of disappeared persons and those supporting them faced threats, intimidations, restrictions and false accusations by Buddhist Monks led mobs, Police and the state media. Police blocked a peaceful march on the International Day of victims of Enforced Disappearances in the Northern town of Vavuniya. Tamil families of disappeared in Mannar were intimidated, urging them not to testify to the Presidential Commission looking into Missing Persons. At the beginning of August, a Buddhist Monk led mob stormed a private meeting of families disappeared persons at a Church run centre in Colombo. The organizers called the Police, but the Police refused to guarantee security for the meeting and participants. The Police insisted that the meeting be stopped and participants from North are sent home. Initially, the Police also refused to disperse the mob, and only did so at the strong insistence of the organizers and participants. This event led to a chain of events, with Sinhalese newspapers and the mob making a variety of false allegations against participants and organizers, including accusing them of being linked to terrorism. One of the human rights defenders present, Rev. Fr. Sathivel, faced a series of threatening incidents. The Ministry of External Affairs warned diplomats about attending such events, but didn’t condemn the disruption of the meeting by the Buddhist Monk led mob.

A Deputy Inspector General of Police who had refused to release suspects of anti-Muslim riots in June 2014 faced death threats. A school teacher who had filed a lawsuit against a government politician also faced death threats. A Tamil Provincial Councillor from the North, who had been prominent in human rights campaigns, also complained about surveillance and threats.

Freedom of Expression has continued to be violated. A Tamil journalist in Vavuniya received death threats, and the Coordinator of the Jaffna Press Club was interrogated by the Police and accused of being a part of the LTTE by Sinhalese newspaper. An Indian academic-activist attending an international symposium on post war developments was also interrogated, and was detained when he tried to visit the Eastern Province prior to the symposium. There were reports of Muslim journalists being branded as “anti-Sinhalese and anti-Buddhist Jihadists. A New York Times reporter complained that his visa had been put on hold since June. Journalists were prevented from covering court hearings when the Secretary to the Ministry of Defence was being cross examined. An inquiry was ordered for singing the National Anthem in Tamil at a school in Colombo.

Freedom of Assembly and Association was also under attack. The National Peace Council (NPC) reported that 4 inter-religious reconciliation events were subjected to surveillance. Two events of the NPC in Southern and Central Provinces were subjected to monitoring by Police and two events in the East by the Military. Trade Union meetings and actions also faced obstacles. Senior government officials said NGOs pose a threat to security and that new laws will be brought into monitor and control foundations and non-profit organizations.

Student activists were arrested and suspended in two universities. When student activists protested against the arrest and detention of two Tamil university students under anti-terror laws (one was arrested after he had been injured during an assault by a mob), the Minister for Higher Education accused the main Student Union of inciting racial disharmony. Opposition political parties faced continuous and systematic intimidation and attacks in the lead up to the Uva Provincial Council elections.

In a number of incidents, Police, Military, and government politicians appeared to be directly responsible in repressing dissent. When dissent was being crushed by non-state parties, the Police appeared to side with the perpetrators, rather than enforce the law.

English: Repression of Dissent in Sri Lanka – August 2014 – English (26Sep2014)

 සිංහල: Repression of Dissent in Sri Lanka – August 2014 – Sinhala (26Sept2014)

தமிழ்: Repression of Dissent in Sri Lanka – August 2014 – Tamil (26Sept2014)

 

 


 

To see older Repression of Dissent Reports, please see the Reports page

Sri Lanka remembers Sunila Abeysekera one year on

On 9th September 2014, Sri Lankas activist community came together for a commemoration lecture for the beloved Sunila Abeysekara. Sunila, a founding member of Inform, was an award-winning human rights defender, and worked tirelessly for justice, advocating and working with victims of human rights abuses. Sunila passed away on 9th September 2013.

Inform, Rights Now, and Women and Media Collective hosted the memorial event at the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute. To a full room of friends, family, supporters and colleagues, Dr Nimalka Fernando gave the keynote lecture:

“State Responsibility to protect Human Rights Defenders” 

(original transcript of speech available on Groundviews)

Invitation to the commemoration lecture

Invitation to the commemoration lecture