Sri Lanka: Vice Chancellor bans human rights defender speaking at university while intimidations and threats to media and HRDs’ continue

Press release/ 23 December  2010

(Read in Sinhala as PDF NfR statement -VC bans free speech, intimidations continue unabeted 23h Dec 2010- 05.12.2010 Sinhala)

NfR expresses its serious concern about the continuance of  intimidations and threats  against journalists and human rights defenders in Sri Lanka, contrary to the claim that normalcy has returned to the country.   It is important to note that all these acts of rights violations take place with complete impunity even  though twenty  months  have lapsed after the end of the war.

According to citizen journalism web site groundsviews.org  the Vice Chancellor of the University of Colombo  “had refused permission for an internationally renowned Sri Lankan human rights defender and a recipient of the 1998 Human Rights Award in commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to speak.”  at  ‘”an event to be held on the campus of Colombo University and co-hosted by the Law Faculty and the University’s Human Rights Centre,  in collaboration with the UNDP and UNFPA.”

Universities are said to be centers of knowledge and healthy debate. The arbitrary act of  Vice Chancellor of Colombo University shows  the extent  to which the  culture of intolerance has crept into institutions of learning.

On 12th December unknown persons visited the house of a human rights defender Darasana Kahingala and inquired about him.  They left the house saying that he would be found. Kahingala is a rights activist who is actively engaged in the campaign against disappearances of persons.

On 16th December an officer of the Media Unit of the Army had  threatened  two photo journalists  with death  for  publishing pictures of solders fainting   at the ceremony  held on  55th Anniversary of the Sri Lanka Armoured Corps (SLAC).   Dinuke Liyanawatta  (Reuters) and Eranga Jayawardene (AFP)  were the photo journalists threatened. During the last two years,  six  photo journalists had to leave the country because of threats  to their life.

On 18th  December the  Mayor of Jaffna, Mrs. Yogeswary Patkunam, had cancelled permission to use the Jaffna Public Library auditorium  by  Home for Human Rights to conduct a workshop on human rights violations  after the war.  Number of academics were among those who were to  participate  at this  event.   Any independent discussion on the aftermath of  the war,  is not allowed in Jaffna and a number of such events had been sabotaged in recent past.

On 19th December  in Batticaloa M. Sasikumar (35) a journalist  of the  Thinakaran newspaper, was assaulted by unidentified persons  under  the cover of darkness.  Although he has lodged a  complaint no one has been arrested. According to TNA MP Ariyanethiran,  this incident has  created  a sense of fear in the minds of the  public.

On 21st December Minister Mervyn Silva  threatened to cut with a razor knife, the mouth  of the person who  gave the media news of him being castigated by the President for wearing a coloured batik shirt to the weekly cabinet meeting.  He  wanted this threat to be carried in the media.  A number of journalists who protested against Minister Silva when he assaulted journalists within the  Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation in  December 2008 were  cut with razor knives and had to leave the country.

All these intimidations and threats send a stern warning to dissent and free speech   thereby   stifling  any informed discussion on much  needed revival of the  rule of law and reconciliation in Sri Lanka.

NfR will try  its  best to  continue to document  all these violations  so that the perpetrators will not go unaccounted.

Steering Committee

NfR

C/O, 19447, Victory Blvd,#2, Reseda,CA 91335, USA                      NfR.SriLanka@gmail.com

Steering committee : Iqbal MCM ( The Netherlands),Kshama Ranawana ( Canada) Lionel Bopage ( Australia), Nadarasa Sarawanan (Norway), Nadarajah Kuruparan(UK) Padmi Liyanage (Germany), Raveendran Pradeepan (France), Rudhramoorthy Cheran (Canada), Saman Wagaarachchi ( USA), Sunanda Deshapriya ( Switzerland)

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