Monthly Archives: February 2012

Support for an initiative to bring Sri Lanka on to the formal agenda of the UN Human Rights Council at its 19th session, commencing on February 27, 2012

Press release/ 27h Feb 2012

The final report of the Sri Lankan government’s Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), which was made public in November 2011, contains some positive recommendations. This has already been pointed out by civil society organization, political parties and human rights defenders in Sri Lanka, who have called for effective and immediate implementation of these recommendations. The government of Sri Lanka has also declared its intention of implementing the recommendations of the LLRC.

 However, the LLRC mandate, and therefore its Report, falls short of responding in any way to the issues of accountability and justice, relating to the allegations of violations of human rights and humanitarian law by the LTTE and by the Government of Sri Lanka in the last months of the war in 2009, set out, for example, in the Report of the Panel of Experts created by the UN Secretary General.

 Among the recommendations of the LLRC are some that could challenge the record of impunity in the country and address the issues of accountability and justice that remain in the post-conflict era; there are others that could pave the way for a constructive discussion on power-sharing in the country, in which the minority communities, in particular the Tamil community, could feel an affirmation of their status as full and equal citizens of Sri Lanka.

 In this context, the Network for Rights (NfR) welcomes the current initiative at the UN Human Rights Council’s 19th session to bring the LLRC report on to the formal agenda of the Council, through a Resolution that will reflect cross-regional concern regarding the situation in Sri Lanka.

 The Sri Lankan government has launched a big campaign to resist this process, attacking political parties and civil society groups and human rights groups in Sri Lanka, accusing them of collaborating with the LTTE and bringing the country to disrepute. The attacks have in particular been focused on their participation in the 19th session of the Human Rights Council. This has led to major concern regarding the safety and security of the few human rights defenders who will engage in advocacy around accountability for human rights violations in Sri Lanka at the Council in spite of these threats. It is very important to keep in mind that these attacks take place in an environment in which the number of abductions and disappearances has risen; there have been 4 abductions, one death of a protester killed by police shooting and two dead bodies found on the roadside just in the 7 days between February10 and 16.

 In Sri Lanka, our past experience of Presidential Commissions of Inquiry is negative. They have often been used as a way for successive governments to avoid issues of justice, reparation and reconciliation, and have ignored the voices of the victims and survivors of egregious violations.

 We appeal to the members of the Human Rights Council to honour their commitment to the promotion and protection of all human rights for all by ensuring that the government of Sri Lanka is called on to implement the recommendations of the LLRC and other human rights obligations within a specified time period. For this, it is imperative that the outcomes of any Resolution on this matter will be time-bound and subject to monitoring by an independent and credible body established according to international human rights norms and standards.

 We also call on the Human Rights Council to impress upon the government of Sri Lanka that all and any reprisals against human rights defenders in Sri Lanka that arises out of their cooperation with UN human rights mechanisms and procedures would be considered a serious breach of obligations.

 

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Sri Lanka: Gov place military on alert; Protester killed, peaceful demos attacked, 3 abducted

The NfR is appalled by the recent attacks on demonstrators, including those protesting against the rise in prices of petrol, diesel and kerosene oil in Sri Lanka, following a February 1O decision by the government to place the army on alert, allegedly to prevent acts of sabotage by terrorists.

 On February 15, Warnakulasuriya Anthony Fernando (35) a fisherman, was shot and killed in Chilaw, a coastal town in northwest Sri Lanka, by military firing on a group of fisherfolk protesting against the recent increase in the prices of diesel. Six other demonstrators were injured, one of them seriously. Chilaw was then placed under curfew.

 These events, which have left one dead and many injured, clearly point to the heightened intolerance of dissent in the country and to the government’s blatant disregard for the rights of people to organize and mobilize against injustice. The deterioration of the rule of law and the prevalence of impunity contribute to a rising toll of human rights violations in the first two months of 2012.

 In addition, there have been three abductions and the recovery of one dead body in Colombo within a matter of a few days.

On February 11, Mr. Ramasamy Prabakaran (42), a Tamil businessman owning an electronics shop at the Majestic City Complex in Bambalapitiya (Colombo 4), was abducted from the road in front of his home in Wellawatta (Colombo 6) at about 3 p.m. in the afternoon, in front of his wife and daughter, by a group of seven armed men armed with assault rifles who dragged him into a ‘white van’ and drove off. Mr Prabakaran’s abduction took place two days before February 13, when the Supreme Court was due to hear his fundamental rights application through which he was seeking judicial remedies for torture and illegal detention. He had been released from detention by order of the Courts in September 2011, after 28 months in police custody, without any charges being filed against him.

On February 13, Chandrapala Mervyn, a suspect who was being taken to prison after a court appearance was abducted from the Court premises in Hulftsdorf, Colombo, by a group of six men in a white van who had assaulted the prison officers present. The Police attacked members of his family who gathered outside the Courts on the morning after his abduction to express their protest at what had happened.

 On February 14, a businessman (42) from Nawinna was abducted at the Dehiwala railway station around 8:30 p.m by a group of armed men in a van.

 On February 14, a severely burnt body was found between Torrington Avenue and Boteju Mawatha in Colombo 5 by the Narahenpita Police.

 It is all the more appalling that these egregious violations of human rights take place as the international community prepares for the 19th session of the UN Human Rights Council.

 The NfR appeals to all those who stand for the right of all human beings to enjoy human rights and democratic freedoms to come to the defense of the people of Sri Lanka who are being horribly penalised for daring to exercise their rights.

 We call on them to support all national and global initiatives that week accountability and justice in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka: State media continues its attack the press freedom watch dog

Sri Lankan state media which are directly controlled by the president’s office continue to slander the press freedom watch dog, the Free Media Movement and its leading activists.

In a response to FMM statement to prove state media allegation that FMM is working with the Tamil National Alliance state media has unleashed another round of false allegations. State media has miserably failed to prove any of its allegations but their hate campaign gets huge state media coverage.

It is clear that GOSL is trying to salience the FMM by these dangerous allegations.

 Here we produce three such articles published by the sate media in Sri Lanka. This campaign intends to create a fear- psychosis among the press freedom community in the country

NfR calls upon all national and international democratic forces express their solidarity with the Free Media Movement and raise the concerns’ with the Government of Sri Lanka

Dinamina: Page 1: 06 Feb 2012

Photographs from the Free Media Movement in exhibition against the Motherland organized by LTTE supporters in London

 Byline: Vijayani Edirisinghe

The Free Media Movement has sent photographs to an exhibition against this country, organized by two LTTE supporter groups. The exhibition was organized by the Global Tamil Forum and the British Tamil Forum at the premises of the British Parliament. In this exhibition, there are photographs that misinterpret even actions carried out by the security forces of our country with good intentions.

 Among the photographs sent to this exhibition by the Free Media Movement is a photograph of disappeared journalist Prageeth Ekneligoda. This is the same photograph that was displayed at the demonstration of the Free Media Movement held at Lipton Circus a few days ago. The photograph is displayed with the caption Genocide.

 Dinamina: Page 1: 07 Feb 2012

We are ready to go to Geneva: the Free Media Movement

 Mr. Sunil Jayasekera, the Convenor of the Free Media movement, says that the Free Media Movement has no hesitation about joining hands with any mass organization or political party that works within the democratic framework to defend media freedom in this country, in the past or present.

 This fact has been revealed in the Press Release issued to refute the article appearing in the Dinamina of February 3 which had stated that the Free Media Movement is engaged in a conspiracy with the TNA. The statement, bearing Sunil Jayasekera’s signature, also says that if the need arises they will not hesitate to go before not only the Human Rights Council but any international body of which Sri Lanka is a member to state their cause. The Dinamina article had stated that 6 members of the FMM had already left for Geneva together with some TNA  MPs to bring this country to disrepute at the Human Rights Council which is due to start on the 27th of this month.

http://www.dinamina.lk/2012/02/07/_art.asp?fn=n1202079

 Dinamina Editorial

08 Feb 2012

 To the Convenor

It is clear that the Convenor of the Free Media Movement and several others of that Movement have lost their cool.mr. Sunil Jayasekera, who represents himself as the Convenor of the Free Media Movement, has sent a somewhat threatening letter, challenging us and our institution. Their rage and their challenge to us is due to the Dinamina exposing the alliance and the combined conspiracy between the Free Media Movement and the TNA. When the truth is revealed, any Convenor would get enraged. This has happened in history. It is happening today.

 There are several organizations in Sri Lanka which call themselves the ‘free media’ and which obstruct freedom and democracy in this country. The ulterior motive of these organizations is to place barriers in the way of progress and challenge the unitary nature of this country. Those organizations and individuals that support and encourage separatism and terrorism are their friends. It is against this background that the Free Media Movement allies with the TNA and obtains support from the Tamil diaspora.

 In his statement Mr. Sunil Jayasekera says that the  government is taking steps to suppress organizations such as the Free Media Movement and that this campaign of publishing untruths is related to that. There is no link between the government and the Dinamina. We do not have any need to publish untruths about an organization like the Free Media Movement. Nor do we accept that they are defending media freedom and democratic rights.

 Does taking a stand for democracy mean supporting the Tiger terrorists? Supporting separatism? Making false claims on behalf of human rights in Sri Lanka? We are forced to tell the Free Media Movement o seek answers to these questions before they take a stand on democracy. Does media freedom mean going on demonstrations against the government? Organizing pickets? Strengthening NGOs? Becoming their contractors? We are forced to tell the Free Media Movement o seek answers to these questions before they take a stand on media freedom.

 Nobody in this organization has taken a stand for freedom, peace or democracy in Sri Lanka. This is most clearly borne out by their behavior during the humanitarian operation.  The Free Media Movement and some other organizations were firmly on the side of the Tigers then. We can recall that they used many strategies to undermine the humanitarian operation. The Mahinda Rajapakse regime was successful in defeating all these efforts and destroying the LTTE and separatism. Organizations like the Free Media Movement and some powerful Western countries are not ready to accept the victory of the people and of the government. 

 Many who were part of the Free Media Movement left the country after the defeat of the LTTE. Most of those who fled the country of their own accord are enjoying a luxurious life in the cold countries of the West. They receive the money and other facilities they need from NGOs and from the governments of those countries. Being thus dependent on foreign aid, they continue to be critical of Sri Lanka. They aim criticisms at the President.  Their entire time is taken up by trying to do something or the other against Sri Lanka.

 Convenor Sunil Jayasekera, who says that there is no alliance and no conspiracy between the TNA and the Free Media Movement makes a very interesting statement elsewhere in the Release: the Free Media Movement has no hesitation about joining hands with any mass organization or political party that works within the democratic framework to defend media freedom in this country, in the past or present, and, if the need arises, we reiterate that we will not hesitate to go before not only the Human Rights Council but any international body of which Sri Lanka is a member to state our case. This statement by Mr. Sunil Jayasejkera, the Convenor of the Free Media Movement, is absolutely correct. These organizations have previously worked to support the LTTE. They have also made representations before international organizations. They have done innumerable despicable things against the country. There is a proverb that even if the mouth lies, the tongue does not. Mr. Sunil Jayasekera’s conscience tells him that what we have published in our newspaper is the truth. They will go ahead with their conspiracy with the TNA.

 The objective of several organizations who present themselves as media freedom organizations is to bring the government to disrepute  by whatever means possible. This is a very strong political hatred. The people will recognize the fraudsters whose actions are driven by this hatred.  On that day Sunil Jayasekera and all the so-called media freedom groups will not have anything left to say.

http://www.dinamina.lk/2012/02/08/_art.asp?fn=e120208

 NfR thanks XXXX  for  providing these translations.

 

 

Sri Lanka: GOSL unleashed a dreadful campaign against FMM and free media activists

Press release/ 06th Feb 2012

 NfR Sri Lanka, a network of Sri Lankan journalists and human rights defenders, expresses its strongest condemnation of the life threatening hate campaign unleashed by the government of Sri Lanka on the Free Media Movement (FMM) and media freedom activists in the country.  This campaign which has been going on for more than a month now is based on complete lies and dangerous allegations.

State controlled electronic and print  media, the political mouth piece of ruling party has started leveling unfounded charges against FMM and media freedom activists saying that they belongs to a larger international conspiracy against the ‘sacred motherland’. 

In the second week of January, 2012   the Sri Lanka Government launched this  new round of attacks on FMM, media freedom activists and human rights defenders on its main TV channel. Showing visuals of activists who live in exile with a voice-over stating ………………………“Those who betrayed the motherland for gold and titles were even killed in time of kings. Their decendents live on today” The programme was concluded with the prediction that ”They do no good to this country, some day they will also face no good.” ……

On 10 January GOSL accused FMM of sending petitions to the European Union urging it to terminate GSP plus tax concessions to Sri Lanka.  In a news report on State print media, it named two former convenors of FMM and impliedly the present convenor too, for sending those so called petitions.  Quoting intelligences reports  the  GOSL  Information Department website  said that ”It has been found that these anti-national elements sustaining on foreign funds, have sent about 700 petitions calling for the suspension of GSP+ facility to Sri Lanka. ”

 While responding to those accusations FMM Convener, Sunil Jayasekara told BBC that ”FMM  did not campaign against the European Union’s Generalised System of Preferences plus (GSP+) facility to Sri Lanka.   The FMM only campaigned for retaining GSP+ by urging Sri Lanka government to respect its human rights obligations.”

 On 25th January state sponsored gangs, including pole wielding thugs invaded the venue where media orgnisations had planned to hold The Black January protest rally.  The printed placards carried by the gang said that ” Free Media Movement Portrays Tiger ( the LTTE) in Sheep’s Clothing”. 

On 3 February state print media accused FMM of working with a Tamil political party to discredit GOSL at the up coming UNHRC secessions in Geneva.   The report said that ”intelligence units have revealed information on a joint conspiracy by the country’s major Tamil party, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) with the Media Rights Organization and the Free Media Movement (FMM), to discredit Sri Lanka”; and that ”a group of TNA MPs and six FMM representatives have already left for Geneva to participate in the 19th Sessions of the United Nations Human Rights Council to present false facts against Sri Lanka.”

Denying the story as completely false the FMM expresses its concern that this planned story could be used to harass and suppress its activists and the press freedom campaigns in Sri Lanka.

In a country where abductions and disappearances are continuing with complete impunity and extremist forces are unleashing dreadful hate attacks on dissenting voices, these attacks cannot be dismissed as mere media reports. If this continues unabated, these attacks may create a situation of intolerance and threaten the very right to life of media freedom activists.

Today FMM has become one of the leading and uniting factors in the struggles for media freedom in Sri Lanka.  It has been in the fore front of campaigns for press freedom in the country for two decades now.  It is a member of International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) the largest world body of journalist’s trade unions of 131 countries and with more than 600,000 members. In early 2000, the FMM initiated and consolidated unity among the journalist’s organizations cutting across ethnic and other divisions.  The FMM played a pivotal role in establishing Sri Lanka Press Institute which includes the Press Complaints Commission and the Sri Lanka College of Journalism.  Further it is a founding member of the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence, one of the leading election monitoring organizations in the country. FMM has co-ordinated and lead a number of press freedom, and, free and fair election campaigns in the country.

 NfR views these renewed attacks on activists of press freedom as part of an overall strategy to silence dissenting voices and calls for rule of law and accountability.  NfR has reliable information that state intelligence agencies are keeping a close surveillance on media freedom activists in the country. On the top of this, leading activists have been followed by unknown vehicles on several occasions in recent weeks.

NfR calls on national and international press freedom and human rights organizations to consider this dangerous situation seriously, to make their concerns known to GOSL and to take other appropriate action in defense of FMM and media freedom activism in Sri Lanka.

Recommended action:

 Please write to Minister Keheliya Rambukwella at keheliya61@gmail.com
Please send a solidarity message to FMM at fmmsrilanka@gmail.com