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Tuesday, August 9, 2022

1640 Catholic Religious and Priests demand the govt to stop the repression of those involved and supporting the Aragalaya (Protest Movement)

STATE REPRESSION AGAINST FR. JEEVANTHA PEIRIS AND OTHER PROTESTORS OF THE PEOPLE’S RESISTANCE MOVEMENT IN SRI LANKA.
We, the undersigned Catholic Religious and Priests, express serious concern about potential arrest of Fr. Jeevantha Peiris, Catholic Priest from the Diocese of Rathnapura (Sabaragamuwa Province) and human rights defender. On 25th July, media reported that Colombo Magistrate Court had issued a travel ban on Fr. Jeevantha and several others involved in the protests and on 27th July, a church was visited by local police, who had told the priest resident there that they had received orders from Colombo to arrest
Fr. Jeevantha.
“The appointment of Ranil Wickramasinghe as acting president and subsequently president, has led to increased repression of protests, protesters and those supporting protests”.
All of us have been supporting the recent Aragalaya (people’s protests) and many of us have joined in the protests. Fr. Jeevantha has been one of the prominent persons involved in the Aragalaya and inspired and encouraged many of us. Fr. Jeevantha is the parish priest of a small, remote, isolated and poor parish and his work has gone beyond traditional religious activities and extended to addressing social – economic concerns, especially education of children. For many years, he has been supporting a diverse range of protests for rights and justice in different parts of the country including the North and East, and been involved in supporting those whose rights have been violated, including victims of police torture.
The appointment of Ranil Wickramasinghe as acting president and subsequently president, has led to increased repression of protests, protesters and those supporting protests. Declaration of emergency sent a chilling political message of intolerance of dissent and this was followed by draconian emergency regulations, that can severely restrict and violate freedom of expression, assembly, movement and lead to arbitrary arrests and prolonged
detentions. The president’s decision to declare emergency has been ratified by parliament, indicating that both the executive and legislature are now on a repressive path.
The government had ordered a military raid in the early hours of 22nd July, despite announcement by protesters at Galle Face that they would hand over the small section of the Presidential Secretariat which they were using to run a library for the public benefit. Unarmed protesters were brutally attacked, tents and other properties destroyed
and stolen. Protesters, including those injured, were not allowed to leave the site for several hours. Ambulances, journalists, lawyers, religious leaders were not allowed to reach the Galle Face. Lawyers, journalists and those video recording and photographing were also beaten, tortured and arrested.
Several protest sites outside Colombo have also been attacked and other protest sites have been pressured to withdraw by the police.
On 26th July, a person involved in protests at the Galle Face was arrested from a flight that was about to leave from the Bandaranayake International Airport, after he had legally cleared immigration. Uniformed police officers arrived on the scene and reasons for arrest was only given after vocal protests by fellow passengers.
On 27th July, the day a church was visited by police looking for Fr. Jeevantha, was a day of repression. Veranga Pushpika, an active protester at the Galle Face, a former student activist and journalist, was abducted from a bus in broad daylight by men in civil. Police had later acknowledged his arrest, but not given clear indication of his whereabouts to lawyers and the Human Rights Commission for several hours.
“We demand the government to stop the repression of those involved and supporting the Aragalaya and focus on listening to grievances and aspirations of people and take actions to address both immediate and long-term problems. We are happy to see the support extended by ordinary people against the state repression.”
Four protesters who had handed over to the police large amounts of money found at the President’s House on 9th July were also arrested. Police had tried to obstruct lawyers from meeting these arrested persons.
Persons in civil claiming to be policemen had visited office of “Xposure News”, demanded the security guard to identify persons in photos and to see CCTV footage and monitored the entrance for around one hour. Xposure News had provided extensive coverage of the raid on Galle Face protest site and violence in nearby places and one of their journalists was amongst the journalists attacked in the early hours of 22nd July.
A complaint had been made by the Young Journalists Association to the Human Rights Commission about imminent arrest of investigative journalist and human rights
defender Tharindu Uduweragedera, who was summoned for questioning by the Criminal Investigation Department few weeks back.
We demand the government to stop the repression of those involved and supporting the Aragalaya and focus on listening to grievances and aspirations of people and take actions to address both immediate and long-term problems. We are happy to see the support extended by ordinary people against the state repression.
We will do our best to support Aragalaya and protect those involved, and we appeal to our fellow citizens, as well as foreign governments and international organizations to do the same.
-STATEMENT BY CATHOLIC PRIESTS, SISTERS AND BROTHERS. 31st July 2022
(Endorsed by 1640 Catholic Priests, Sisters, Brothers, from 23 congregations. Names are below.
Contact person: Fr. Rohan Silva, OMI, [email protected]gmail.com or +94-71-4250276)
Read the statement with names of  1640 Catholic Priests, Sisters, Brothers here: Statement by Priests – Religious – Brothers on state repression – 31July2022 (1)

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