After more than 15 long months, the overseas travel restriction imposed on me at request of TID in March 2014 was removed today, by the Colombo Magistrate Courts, after motion filed in courts today. This was preceded by a written submission in Nov. 2014 and months of discussion with AGs department.
During this time, I had to seek Court permission for all of my 14 visits overseas for human rights related work. I had to cancel many human rights engagements in Sri Lanka to go to courts (sometimes two court appearances for one overseas visit). Even after I got permission, I was stopped by immigration, Terrorist Investigation Department (TID), State Intelligence Service (SIS) at the airport, for times ranging from 5-45 minutes. Endured delays, humiliation and embarrassment as other passengers stared. On one occasion, I was not allowed to travel, missed a flight and was only allowed to travel next day, due to intervention of my lawyers. Only time I wanted to travel for personal reasons, for a Pooja Patel wedding, I could not go as I could not go to courts in time to get permission. Finally, I’m looking forward to travel freely.
Many thanks to Suren Fernando, who did most of the hard work, in courts and behind the scene. Also to Deanne Uyangodafor her many appearances, including today (Believe her first after giving birth to Avan, last was also for me to travel overseas!). Also to Lakshan Dias, Swasthika Arulingam and Buddhima Padmasiri for stepping in whenever a lawyer was needed. They had all given up many other assignments to appear free of charge for me and all much more than lawyers! Much thanks also to Udaya and Darme at INFORM for logistical support and to all others who had supported me in this difficult time.
But the investigation by TID and the gag order restricting freedom of expression continues. Confiscated equipment has still not been returned.
And I’m aware of at least one more person, who has similar travel restrictions, and many against whom investigations still continue and some who have been detained for many years without having had their cases concluded. Long way still to go!
- Ruki Fernando