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FeaturesNewsIn the face of Justice Minster’s threat to Lakshan Dias, a committed HR Lawyer & HRD, we stand in solidarity!

In the face of Justice Minster’s threat to Lakshan Dias, a committed HR Lawyer & HRD, we stand in solidarity!

by

Solidarity with Human Rights Defender and Attorney at Law Mr. Lakshan Dias.

We are appalled by the Minister of Justice’s attempts to intimidate Attorney-at-Law Mr. Lakshan Dias, with threats that steps would be taken in terms of the law to have him removed from the legal profession. We condemn this conduct of the Minister as an abuse of power, resulting in an individual being subject to public disrepute and hostility.

On 14th June 2017, Mr. Dias, appearing on the talk show “Aluth Parlimenthuwa” on Derana TV, stated that there were 195 incidents of attacks and other forms of harassment against Christian places of worship in the country since the beginning of 2015. On 16th June, ITN news telecast a speech of H.E. the President referring to comments made by Mr. Dias. H.E. the President, here, stated that he had
immediately called Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of the Roman Catholic Church to verify Mr. Dias’ claims and that he was told that the Cardinal was unaware of any such incidents. Subsequently, on 17th June, ITN news telecast a statement by Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakse reiterating the President’s statement and further threatening to initiate action to remove Mr. Dias from practicing law unless he apologises to the
nation within 24 hours.

The statistics presented by Mr. Dias were based on information documented by the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (NCEASL), including police complaints and case numbers of many such incidents. On 27th May 2017, the NCEASL issued a press release, expressing concern over 20 incidents targeting Christian places of worship in 2017. Moreover, research reports compiled by Verité
Research based on the documentation of the NCEASL titled, ‘Silent Suppression: Restrictions on Religious Freedoms of Christians (1994-2014) – A twenty year trend analysis’ and ‘Judicial Responses to Religious Freedom: A Case Analysis – Judicial responses towards the fundamental rights of the Christian community in Sri Lanka during 2005-2014’ further highlight violations against the Christian community in Sri Lanka. The Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka too, on 31st May, 2017 wrote to H.E. the President, drawing attention to attacks on places of worship, targeting Christian and Muslim communities, seeking the President’s intervention.

The NCEASL had previously, communicated to the President through a letter dated 30th September, 2016, its’ desire to represent the interests of the Evangelical Christian community, a minority religious group in the country, at the Inter-Religious Council of Sri Lanka but did not receive a response to this request. The NCEASL has met with officials of the Ministry of Religious Affairs under successive
governments, and shared information of acts of intimidation and violence. The NCEASL has also shared its’ incident reports and documentation with other agencies closely working with the government including the South Asia Policy and Research Institute, and is prepared to present to H.E. the President, evidence of the statistics quoted by Mr. Dias in his interview.

In this light, it is surprising that both H.E. the President and the Minister of Justice are unaware of such incidents. We draw attention to the distinction between the references made to attacks on Evangelical Christian churches as opposed to Roman Catholic churches, and also note that Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith functions as the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Colombo.

Mr. Lakshan Dias is a renowned lawyer and a committed human rights defender who has engaged in civil society activism for over two decades. He is a member of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka and many local and regional human rights groups. He has appeared for many fundamental rights violation cases on a pro-bono basis, on behalf of marginalized and underprivileged people. He has also represented many victims of religious violence and discrimination from minority religious communities.

We, as a civil society, view the targeting of Mr. Dias as an attempt to silence human rights activism. Moreover, we express our serious concern about the threat posed to r. Lakshan Dias’s legal career and his safety.

We strongly urge the following actions by the Government:
1. Immediate action from the Minister of Justice to make public that Mr. Lakshan Dias Attorney at Law’s assertions was based on reported statistics.
2. Ensure the safety and security of Mr. Dias and his family and uphold the fundamental rights of Mr. Dias to engage in his chosen profession, and continued enjoyment of the freedom of expression as a Lawyer and a defender of rights guaranteed to all under Article 14 (1) (a) of the Constitution of Sri Lanka.

Issued by:
The National Christian Evangelical Alliance Sri Lanka

Endorsed by:
Individuals:
1. Abdul Halik Azeez
2. Aboobacker Abdul Ghany
3. Affan Rushdie
4. Afham Ismail
5. Altaf Iqbal
6. Ameer Faaiz – Attorney-at-Law
7. Amjad Saleem
8. Anberiya Hanifa
9. Annouchka Wijesinghe
10. Anushani Alagarajah
11. Areeb Ahamed
12. Ashad Wahab
13. Aslam Mohamed
14. Asma Edris
15. Avanthie Sahabandu
16. Azhar Ahamed
17. Azmy Yehiya
18. Azward Sulaiman
19. B. Gowthaman
20. Balasingham Skanthakumar – Social Scientists’ Association (SSA)
21. Basheer Ahamed
22. Brito Fernando
23. C. Ranitha Gnanarajah – Attorney-at-Law
24. Caryll Tozer
25. Cayathri Divakalala
26. Chandraguptha Thenuwara – University of Visual and Performing Arts
27. Chinniah Rajeshkumar
28. Chulani Kodikara
29. D.B.S. Jeyaraj – Journalist
30. Damaris Wickremesekera
31. Darshan Ambalavanar
32. Deanne Uyangoda
33. Deekshya Illangasinghe
34. Dilrukshi Handunnetti – Journalist and Lawyer
35. Dr. Farah Mihlar
36. Dr. Ivor Poobalan – Principal, Colombo Theological Seminary
37. Dr. Jehan Perera
38. Dr. M.A.M. Siddique
39. Dr. Mareena Refai
40. Dr. N.P.M. Woleedh
41. Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu
42. Dr. Philip Setunga
43. Dr. Vickramabahu
44. Dulan de Silva
45. Emil van der Poorten
46. Eng. A.G.A. Barie
47. Faiz Ur Rahman
48. Faizun Zakeriya
49. Farzana Haniffa – University of Colombo
50. Florida be Marzook
51. Florine Marzook
52. Freddy Gamage
53. Gayathri Gamage
54. Gehan Gunatilleke – Attorney-at-Law
55. Godfrey Yogarajah
56. Hanif Yusuf
57. Harini Amarasuriya – Open University of Sri Lanka
58. Hasanah Cegu Isadeen
59. Herman Kumara
60. Hilmy Ahamed
61. Hussain Shamil
62. I. Madani
63. Ian Ferdinands
64. Irshad Muhamed Nazeel
65. Isham Marrikar
66. Jake Oorloff
67. Jansila Majeed
68. Joanne Senn
69. K. Aingkaran – Attorney-at–Law
70. K.S. Ratnavale – Attorney-at-Law
71. Kalani Subasinghe
72. Keshini Dias Sumanasekera – Attorney–at-Law
73. Kumudini Samuel
74. Kusal Perera – Journalist
75. Lakshman Gunasekara
76. Luke David
77. M.B.M. Firthous Naleemi
78. M.H.M. Firdous
79. M.T. Thassim
80. Mahalaxumy Kurushanthan
81. Mahesh De Mel
82. Mahir ismail
83. Mangaleswary Shanker – Attorney-at-Law
84. Manjula Gajanayake – Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA)
85. Mareena Abdeen
86. Mario Gomez
87. Marisa de Silva
88. Mass E. Usuf
89. Maureen Ernest
90. Melani Manel Perera – Journalist
91. Mike Gabriel
92. Mirak Raheem
93. Mohamed Azad – Human Rights Activist and Attorney-at-Law
94. Mohamed Jaleel
95. Mohamed Mahuruf
96. Mohamed Rafi
97. Moiz Mohsin Eusfally
98. Muhammed Muzzammil Cader – Samadanam, Kandy
99. Muhammed Zuhair
100. Mujeebur Rahman – Journalist & Human Rights Defender
101. Mumtaz Rahman
102. Munza Mushqtaq
103. Najah Mohamed
104. Nalini Ratnarajah
105. Nazrah Ismail
106. Nazvi Rahman
107. Nihar Hameed
108. Nilshan Fonseka
109. Nimalka Fernando – Attorney-at-Law
110. Nirmal Ranjith Dewasiri
111. Nirmala Rajasingam
112. Niroza Hussain
113. Niyas Mohideen
114. Niyas Yusuf
115. P. Selvaratnam
116. P.N. Singham
117. Paba Deshapriya
118. Philip Dissanayaka
119. Prathibha Perera
120. Praveen Gomez
121. Prema Gamage
122. Prof. Priyan Dias – University of Moratuwa
123. Prof. Sumathy Sivamohan – University of Peradeniya
124. Pulasthi Hewamanna
125. Raisa Wickrematunge
126. Rajeeva Godagedara
127. Rajith Keerthi Tennakoon – Executive Director, CaFFE & CHR – Sri
Lanka
128. Ramila Herath
129. Rev. Fr. Ashok Stephen – Executive Director, Centre for Society and
Religion
130. Rev. Fr. Jeyabalan Croos
131. Rev. Fr. Sarath Iddamalgoda
132. Rev. Fr. V. Yogeswaran
133. Rev. Jason Selvaraja – Assembly of God, Chavakachcheri
134. Rev. Nirmal Mendis – Rector, All Saint’s Church Dain City & Christ
Church Wainfleet, Anglican Diocese of Niagara, Canada
135. Rev. Sr. Beatrice Fernando, SDS
136. Rev. Sr. Rasika Pieris
137. Riza Yehiya
138. Rohana Hettiarachchi
139. Ruki Fernando
140. S.C.C. Elankovan
141. Sadique M. Saleem
142. Sampath Samarakoon
143. Sandamali Herath
144. Sanjana Hattotuwa – Senior Researcher, Centre for Policy Alternatives
145. Sarah Arumugam – Attorney-at-Law
146. Selvaraja Rajasegar
147. Sepali Kottegoda
148. Shabir Zainudeen
149. Shahama Firdouse
150. Shalomi Daniel
151. Shameel Hameed
152. Shammas Ghouse
153. Sheila Richards
154. Shenali De Silva
155. Shreen Abdul Saroor
156. Shyamala Gomez
157. Silma Ahamed
158. Subha Wijesiriwardena
159. Sudarshana Gunawardana – Attorney-at-Law
160. Sumi Kerison
161. Sumika Perera
162. Sunanda Deshapriya – Journalist
163. Suren D. Perera – Attorney-at-Law
164. Suven Thambar
165. Swasthika Arulingam
166. Thiagi Piyadasa
167. Tony Senewiratne
168. Udaya Kalupathirana
169. Vasuki Jeyasankar – Women’s Rights Activist
170. Ven. Samuel J. Ponniah
171. Vidya Perera
172. Waruna Padmasiri – Attorney-at-Law
173. Wazeer Hameem
174. Yamini Ravindran – Attorney-at-Law
175. Yazmin Woleedh
176. Yunus Raheem
177. Zahabia Asgarali Adamaly
178. Zainab Ibrahim
179. Ziard Deen
180. Ziqufi Ismail
Organisations:
181. Alliance Development Trust (ADT)
182. Ceylonese Evangelistic Association
183. INFORM Human Rights Documentation Center
184. International Centre for Ethnic Studies (ICES)
185. Lawyers for Democracy
186. Mannar Women’s Development Federation (MWDF)
187. Mothers and Daughters of Lanka (MDL)
188. National Fisheries Solidarity Movement (NAFSO)
189. National Peace Council (NPC)
190. Northern Muslim Civil Society
191. Organization for Protection of Paanam Paththuwa
192. PAFFREL
193. People to People Dialogue on Peace and Sustainable Development
194. Praja Abilasha Land Rights Movement
195. Right to Life Human Rights Center (R2L)
196. Rural Development Foundation
197. Transparency International Sri Lanka
198. Women’s Action Network (WAN)
199. Women’s Centre
200. Women’s Political Academy
201. World Evangelical Alliance, Religious Liberty Commission (WEA RLC)

19th June, 2017.

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