Socialist Resistance condemns the Sri Lankan government for intensifying its terror campaign against human rights and media activists following its setback at the UNHCR which adopted a resolution calling on the government to implement the recommendations of a presidential panel of inquiry on the war.
One of the latest of these threats was on March 25 when leading activist Sandya Ekneligoda was interrogated in a highly threatening manner in court by lawyers representing the state. She was trying to find out the whereabouts of her missing husband. The interrogation directed at Sandya was not about his disappearance but over her recent campaign in Geneva calling on UN member states to ask the Sri Lankan government to produce her journalist husband Prageeth Ekneligoda. Prageeth, who was abducted on January 24 2009, was also an opposition activist.
This attack on Sandya follows a series of hate broadcasts by state-run television ITN, Lakehouse publications and other pro government corporate media against human rights activists Nimalka Fernando, Sunila Abesysekara and Paikyasothy Saravanamuttu in addition to media activists Rohitha Bashana, Poddala Jayantha, Sanath Balasuriya, Sunanda Deshapriya and Manjula Wediwardena who have been forced to flee the country. Activists of Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association (SLWJA) living in Sri Lanka were also targeted. . SLWJA President Gnanasiri Koththigoda, for instance, has been targeted in a sinister character assassination campaign by the government controlled television channel, ITN.
All the activists targeted by the Sri Lanka state media have been highlighting the human misery and war crimes committed during the genocidal war waged by the Sri Lankan government against the Tamils. The war, in which the Tamil Tiger militants were defeated militarily in May 2009, resulted in over a hundred thousand civilian lives being lost. Although the UN concluded that over forty thousand non-combatants died, it has so far been unable to take any action against Sri Lanka.
The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) appointed by President Mahinda Rajapaksa to look into the war justified the killing of unarmed Tamils by the Sri Lankan military, charging that Tamil Tigers used the civilians as ‘human shields’. Despite this, recommendations by the LLRC presented to the Sri Lankan parliament in December 2011 have been swept under the carpet. The UNHRC, whose 19th session concluded on March 2012, adopted a resolution despite strong opposition from Sri Lanka and 15 other governments – including Russia, China and Cuba – urged Sri Lanka’s rulers to implement the LLRC recommendations.
A key factor in the UN taking this step nearly three years after the end of the war was the fact that Sri Lankan activists, living in a highly dangerous environment stuck out their necks by calling for accountability and justice.
Therefore, while unreservedly condemning the Sri Lankan state led by President Mahinda Rajapaksa for hounding those women and men seeking justice, we believe that it is the duty and responsibility of the UN to take steps to safeguard the lives of these and other handful of brave Sri Lankans who are a minority standing against a Sinhala nationalist militarised state. We consider that stopping the deportation of political asylum seekers from Sri Lanka is crucial in this regard.
We call upon all progressive forces around the globe to join hands in solidarity with oppressed Sri Lankans in general and Tamils in particular and to call upon their respective governments to condemn the Sri Lankan government’s destructive approach. We call on the UN to take measures that would enable the Sri Lankan human rights activists to continue with their fight for truth and justice without fear or intimidation. We also consider that human rights activists seeking asylum elsewhere in the world should be granted that asylum and not deported to Sri Lanka in the interim.