As part of its post-war peace building initiatives the National Peace Council (NPC) has been conducting an educational programme on the LRRC report in different parts of the country, including Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Colombo, Matara, Galle, Jaffna, Vavuniya, Mannar, Puttalam, Ampara, Kurunegala, Batticaloa and Trincomalee.
These LLRC workshops have been very popular with community leaders and local level government officials of all ethnicities. On Saturday July 27, 2013 a workshop discussion between community leaders and experts on land law and policy conducted by the National Peace Council in Batticaloa was forcibly disrupted by a Buddhist monk of the area and his supporters.
The workshop that was disrupted was part of NPC’s follow-up activities, done at the request of the participants themselves. Its purpose was to educate these community leaders on the government’s rules and regulations and provide a legal point of view on land issues. There were religious leaders and community leaders from resettlement areas representing different ethnic and religious backgrounds. The disruption of the NPC event is similar to that experienced by other civil society groups who have faced similar obstructions. The pattern of incidents that have taken place in the recent past, and of which NPC has been the latest victim, is an indication of the threat to pluralism, multi-culturalism and religious tolerance in the country.
The function of the Police is to act under the Criminal Procedure Code and the Police Ordinance and uphold the Rule of Law. However, the general ethos in cases such as the one NPC encountered is to let the perpetrators off without legal action leaving space for them to act again with impunity. The right to freedom of association and free speech is guaranteed in the constitution. At this time, when the country is preparing for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Sri Lanka, and also for the Commonwealth People’s Summit (in which NPC is playing a supportive role by being a part of the sub-committee), we ask the government to take the necessary steps to protect the space for civil society groups to function freely, without fear and harassment.
– statement issued by NPC