Monthly Archives: April 2012

Abductions reach dangerous heights

Press release 08.04.2012

NfR Sri Lanka, a network of Sri Lankan journalists and human rights defenders, condemns in very strong terms the recent abduction of Mr. Premakumar Gunarathnam and Ms. Dimuthu Attygalle, two leading political activist in the country.

According to reliable sources Ms. D Attygalle was abducted on 6th April, late in the evening and Mr. Gunarathnam on the 7th April early in the morning. Both of them are leading figures of the Frontline Socialist Party (FSP) of Sri Lanka.

The government of Sri Lanka was looking for Premakumar Gunarathnam for some time as he was tipped to be the leader of a new left political formation, FSP. The wife of Mr. Gunarathnam, Dr Somaratne, was detained with her two children for 18 hours at Colombo’s international airport on 02 January and questioned about the whereabouts of Mr. Gunarathnam.

According to an eyewitness around 25 armed persons had come to the place where Mr. Gunarathnam  was staying at Kiribathgoda, suburb of Colombo, to abduct him. The manner in which the abduction had taken place shows without any doubt , the involvement of state agencies in this heinous crime.

Two activists from the same political group, Lalith Weeraraj and Kugan Muruganandan, were abducted on 9th December 2011 and they remain missing to this day. Lalith Weeraraj was abducted by the military prior to 9th December and had been released after being threatened to stop work related to disappearances of persons in the North. The families of both these men have also suffered threats, harassment and surveillance following their abductions.

Abductions have continued unabated in Sri Lanka over the last six months or so. Nearly 60 such incidents had been reported during this period. Threats, harassments, attacks and intimidation of political and civil activists too, have been reported from all corners of the country.

In recent times it has come to light that white van abductors are in fact military personnel in civil clothes. There had been instances when Government leaders had intervened and got abducted persons released in no time when they were inclined to help the victims. However the law enforcement agencies had not been pursuing any of the complaints of disappearances in all earnest. This has given credence to the widely prevalent suspicion that the state is involved in these abductions.

Abduction of leading political figures like Mr. Gunarathnam and Ms. Attygalle brings the trend of the suppression of the dissenting and opposing voices and physical elimination of persons the state considers to be a threat to its autocratic rule, to a peak. These incidents have revived memories of the period of terror (the bheeshana samaya ) that prevailed in Sri Lanka between 1987 and 1992 and have created a tensed situation in the country.
 
NfR is saddened and shocked by the abduction of these two leading political activists and appeals all human and democratic forces to register their concern with the Government of Sri Lanka and take all available steps to secure the lives of Mr. Gunarathnam and Ms. Attygalle.

Sri Lanka: Targeting a daughter of a journalist in exile by the government backed media in Sri Lanka should be condemned

Press release/ 28 March 2012

NfR Sri Lanka, a network of Sri Lankan journalists and human rights defenders, vehemently condemns the virulent campaign launched by the Government backed media in Sri Lanka, against a daughter of a journalist in exile, in the wake of Human Rights Council’s resolution on accountability in Sri Lanka. This is a deliberate effort to suppress dissenting views being expressed in the country.

ITN the State controlled TV channel has shown visuals of the daughter of the exiled journalist Poddala Jayantha, 24 times over last few weeks.

Award winning journalist and defender of press freedom, Poddala Jayantha was abducted, tortured and left to die in June 2009, presumably by a state sponsored killer squad, after he returned to the Island from India after staying there temporarily for security reasons. He fled to the United States of America with his family in early 2010 as threats to his life didn’t cease and lives in New York.

Jayantha’s daughter, a 13 year old student was shown walking with her father as a back ground visuals on State controlled television while the journalist was blamed by the commentator for unfounded anti-government activities.

NfR considers the use of visuals of an innocent child as a back ground to dangerous attacks on her father, to be a crime that should be condemned in the strongest terms and its perpetrators should be brought to justice.

NfR condemned this unethical and totally unacceptable behaviour of the Sri Lankan state media and holds the GoSL responsible for this action. GoSL continues to keep a complete control over state media by appointing the members to its board of directors, editors and even news casters. There is no truth in the statement that State media is free and GoSL is not responsible for these virulent attacks on journalists.

The NfR joins the growing local and international opposition to hostile rhetoric by GoSL against journalists, press freedom defenders and human rights defenders in the wake of the passing of a resolution at the UN HRC demanding the implementation of the recommendations of the LLRC.NfR calls upon human rights organisations to voice their strong opposition to all these attacks and demands that GoSL should tender an open apology to the daughter of journalist Poddala Jayantha.