Month: May 2015

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)

 

Advertisements

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