Today (Tuesday, 17th January 2012) a joint platform of various peoples’ organisations had organised a protest campaign in Jaffna against the ongoing disappearances and focussed on the disappearance of two human rights defenders, Lalith Kumar Weeraraj and Kugan Muruganandan, a month ago.
The Organization Collective against Abductions and Disappearance had coordinated this campaign. 17 political parties and organizations, including the Movement for Peoples’ Struggles, United Socialist Party, NSSP, Maoist Lanka Communist Party, Alternative Group of LSSP, Socialist Party, Socialist Organization, People’s March Organization, We Are Sri Lankans, People’s Lawyers Association, Lawyers Associations for Democracy, Students for Human Rights, Inter Company Employees’ Union, All Ceylon Telecom Employees’ Union and All Island Health Employees’ Union, were to take part in today’s protest campaign.
The members of those organisations who were travelling to Jaffna in a convoy of busses were harassed, checked and finally stopped at Pulliyankulam by the military acting on orders from the above.
According to the organisers of the campaign a special police unit first stopped their busses at Punnawa 4 km before Vavuniya and told them they are not permitted to proceed further as Murukandi Bridge had been exploded. Thereafter, they were searched for over one hour at Joseph Camp and the police headquarters 2 km and 1 km before Vavuniya respectively. After that, busses carrying the protesters were stopped at Thaandikulam in Vavuniya and again searched for three hours for the alleged reason that they had received information that bombs were transported in these busses. The busses were again stopped 5 km after Vavuniya and they were told that four bombs in a lorry ahead of them were being neutralized by the Army, hence, protesters could not be permitted to proceed further at the risk of their safety.
All these stories were concocted by higher military officials as a pretext to block the protest against the ongoing disappearances. This illustrates that the Sri Lankan Government is willing to go to any length to stop people getting organised to claim their human rights.
Meanwhile, “Thinakural Rest” hotel in Jaffna where the Organization Collective had planned to hold a media briefing was attacked by a mob of thugs at 1.30 pm on the same day and the property of the hotel and three vehicles parked nearby were damaged.
Government ministers were making fear mongering and hysteria creating statements in the last few weeks in order to discourage campaigns against previous and ongoing human rights violations in Sri Lanka.
The right to association and to free speech are inviolable fundamental rights enshrined in the constitution of Sri Lanka. The duty of the state security forces is to protect those rights and not to trample them. In this case, it is evident that these democratic rights are not protected by either the Government of Sri Lanka or the state security forces. Furthermore, this development is an indication of tightening military control of people’s life in the Northern Province resulting in frightening people into silence in the context of a growing demand for an independent and credible investigation into human rights violations related to the last phase of the war.
NfR calls for urgent attention of national and international human rights organisations to respond to this dangerous trend and requests appropriate action be taken in solidarity for the victims of all human rights violations in Sri Lanka.
NfR – Net working for rights in Sri Lanka -Exile network for media and human rights in Sri Lanka
Press release/ 18th January 2012
NfR Sri Lanka