NfR Sri Lanka, a network of Sri Lankan journalists and human rights defenders expresses its serious concern over the recent threats and intimidations directed at Dr. Nirmal Ranjith Devasiri, the President of the Federation of University Teachers’ Associations (FUTA) for his trade union activities. FUTA has been campaigning for better remuneration for University teachers and education facilities in the universities. FUTA has also campaigned against the privatisation of the university education. In addition the FUTA has announced a strike by its members demanding the implementation of the agreed salary structure from 4th July 2012.
NfR Sri Lanka views this intimidation of members of the academic community in the country, with alarm and condemns unconditionally those who are behind such dastardly acts. This is clearly a violation of the universally accepted democratic right to dissent, freedom of expression and the right to association.
According to FUTA ‘a group of men claiming to be from the Ministry of Defence have been behaving suspiciously within the neighbourhood of the Secretary of Arts Faculty Teachers’ Associations (FUTA), Dr. Nirmal Ranjith on June 19, 2012. They have questioned the neighbours regarding Dr. Devasiri’s movements and details regarding his family.’ On June 21, Dr. Devasiri has lodged a complaint in this regard at the Maharagama Police Station. He has also received a number of telephone calls threatening him and his family to stop continuing to work as the President of FUTA.
The Sri Lanka Police is notorious for its lethargy in investigating killings, threats and intimidations of human rights defenders, journalists, lawyers and academics. Friday Forum, a concerned group of eminent persons and academics in Sri Lanka has stated that they have requested for a meeting with Inspector General of Police to seek his support towards arresting the culture of impunity, and to request him to take measures to prevent acts of police brutality and the violent repression of public protests. This request has received only ‘an unhelpful bureaucratic response’. In a show of his arrogance and bureaucratic attitude towards civil society, the IGP has not considered it necessary for him to meet the Friday Forum. Regrettably, the IGP has not been able to show any independence whatsoever towards marauding politicians or their henchmen.
While condemning the biased attitude of police towards politically motivated crimes in the country, NfR requests that government to initiate an impartial inquiry into this incident and bring the culprits to book without delay. It is only by doing so that the Government of Sri Lanka can absolve itself from being blamed as being involved in the harassment and intimidation of Dr. Devasiri directly and the Federation of University Teachers’ Associations, indirectly.