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NewsSituation AnalysisSri Lanka: Threats against Prof. Tenuwara and Viyangoda -Urgent attention required

Sri Lanka: Threats against Prof. Tenuwara and Viyangoda -Urgent attention required

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We, the undersigned concerned about democracy, justice and rule of law in Sri Lanka, are alarmed at the threats made against two senior civil society activists for filing an application in the Court of Appeal (CA) challenging the validity of the dual citisenship declaration belonging to Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Presidential aspirant and former Secretary, Ministry of Defence.

We understand that Prof. Chadraguptha Thenuwara and Gamini Viyangoda filed the case following submissions made by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) to the Magistrates Court on this issue highlighting irregularities in the issuing of the declaration. The case was heard before a divisional bench headed by the CA President Justice Yasantha Kodagoda and was dismissed on 4 October. The Petitioners received threatening messages soon after the case was filed in the CA on 27 September and these messages have continued following the dismissal of the case.

We note that Gotabaya Rajapaksa submitted nomination papers on 7 October to contest the forthcoming Presidential elections as the candidate of the Sri Lanka Peoples Party (SLPP).

We are especially troubled by a series of threatening events and messages which include threats to person when in public places, telephone messages, and hate speech on social media platforms, mainly on Facebook, levelled against Prof. Thenuwara and Viyangoda. Some of the threats posted on Facebook immediately following the dismissal of the case were collated by the BBC’s Sinhala News page on 6 October titled ‘White Van threats to Thenuwara and Viyangoda on social media’ (https://www.bbc.com/sinhala/world49945479).

Among them were a number referring to disappearance by white van such as “get ready for a white van ride”, “these are the types of blackguards who must be given trips in white vans”, “who knows where they live?”, “They don’t deserve a quick funeral, their arms and legs should be broken and they should be made to suffer…” and so on.

A web post under IRAJ productions dated 3 October warned, “No one who touched the Rajapaksas fared well” and went on to threaten, “After the Presidential Election we will begin our work once we have sent the two pariahs who filed the case against Gotabaya to the other world. Be prepared. Victory to the motherland!!!”. In response Madhumadhawa Aravinda linked the threat to the disappearance of Pradeep Eknaligoda saying, “There is another name like Viyangoda. That is known as Eknaligoda. We wish them well.”

Prof. Thenuwara and Viyangoda first made a complaint to the CID and subsequently filed the case in the CA as citizens concerned with the integrity of the forthcoming elections, and to ensure that any alleged fraud or irregularity is independently investigated and action taken by the relevant authorities. This is a fundamental right of every citizen and should be exercised without fear of threat or intimidation.

These threats are meant to strike fear into the hearts of those who work for rights and justice in Sri Lanka. Individuals working on these issues will make every effort to resist any such climate of intimidation and fear. We are also concerned that these threats are a reminder of Sri Lanka’s recent past when activists, media and lawyers came under attack for challenging the previous regime of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Investigations into the killing of Lasantha Wickrematunge, disappearance of Prageeth Ekneligoda and assault against Keith Noyahr are some of the cases where journalists were targeted during this period with investigations still pending.

We note that Prof. Thenuwara and Viyangoda made a complaint to the CID regarding these threats on 8 October and asked for investigation and protection. In a context where Prof. Thenuwara and Viyangoda are facing continued intimidation, we urge the authorities to take immediate steps to investigate these threats and to provide them with security.

We also request the supporters of Gotabaya Rajapaksa to respect the rights of all citizens to exercise their fundamental rights and to desist from making threatening remarks or engaging in any form of intimidation. As a candidate in the forthcoming elections, it is paramount Rajapaksa as well as the SLPP call on their supporters to respect the right to dissent and act responsibly during elections and thereafter.

Finally, we call on the Elections Commission to take all measures to prevent hate speech and violence in the lead up to and during elections and to secure democratic space required for the conducting of free and fair elections in Sri Lanka.

14 October 2019

Signed by:

1. A. Haniffa

2. A.F.M. Ikram

3. Aaranya Rajasingham

4. Ajith Dharmakeerthi

5. Ajith Jinadasa

6. Ajith Rajapaksa

7. Ameena Hussein

8. Andrew Samuel

9. Anithra Varia

10. Annemari de Silva

11. Annie Kurian

12. Anushaya Collure

13. Anushya Coomaraswamy

14. Ashoka Handagama

15. B. Gowthaman

16. Bandara Menike

17. Bennett Rathnayake

18. Bhavani Fonseka

19. Binendri Perera

20. Bishop Duleep de Chickera

21. Brito Fernando

22. Chamila Thushari

23. Chandana Keerthi Bandara

24. Chandra Jayaratne

25. Chandra Wedagedara Jayaratne

26. Chandula Kumbukage

27. Chulani Kodikara

28. Cyril Wedagedara

29. Danesh Casie Chetty

30. Deanne Uyangoda

31. Deekshya Illangasinghe

32. Dharmasiri Lankapeli

33. Dr. Asanga Welikala

34. Dr. Cheran Rudhramoorthy

35. Dr. Devanesan Nesiah

36. Dr. Farzana Haniffa

37. Dr. Harini Amarasuriya

38. Dr. Harshana Rambukwella

39. Dr. Jayantha Dhanapala

40. Dr. Mahim Mendis

41. Dr. Nimalka Fernando

42. Dr. Nirmal Ranjith Dewasiri

43. Dr. P. Saravanamuttu

44. Dr. Prabha Manuratne

45. Dr. Radhika Coomaraswamy

46. Dr. Ranjini Obeyesekere

47. Dr. Sakuntala Kadirgamar

48. Dr. Shamala Kumar

49. Dr. Sujatha Gamage

50. Dr. Udan Fernando

51. Dr. Vasuki Nesiah

52. Dumindu Madhushan

53. Ephraim Shadrach

54. Ermiza Tegal

55. F. Zackariya

56. Fr. V. Yogeswaran

57. Gaya Nagahawatta

58. Geetha de Chickera

59. Gnanasiri Koththigoda

60. Harsha Bulathsinghala

61. Harsha Gunasena

62. Heelen de Alwis

63. Hejaaz Hizbullah

64. Herman Kumara

65. Hilmy Ahamed

66. Indika Udugampola

67. Inshira Faliq

68. Iromi Perera

69. Javid Yusuf

70. Jay Gunewardena

71. Jayanthi Kuru-Utumpala

72. Jayatilaka Kammallaweera

73. Jeanne Samuel

74. K.S.Ratnavale

75. K.W. Janaranjana

76. Kamala Vasuki

77. Kevin Murray

78. Kumudini Samuel

79. Kusal Perera

80. Lakshman Hewawitharana

81. Lal Wijenayake

82. Lasantha Garusinghe

83. Lionel Bopage

84. Lionel Guruge

85. M. L. Usuf

86. M.D. Mahindapa

87. M.K.D.S. Nilasini

88. Maithreyi Rajasingam

89. Manel Fonseka

90. Mario Gomez

91. Marisa de Silva

92. Minoli de Soysa

93. Nadie Kammallaweera

94. Nadeshan Suresh

95. Natasha Ginwala

96. Nuwan Thenuwara

97. P. Muthulingam

98. Padmini Weerasooriya

99. Philip Dissanayake

100. Prabodha Rathnayaka

101. Prema Gamage

102. Priyanthi Fernando

103. Priyath Liyanage

104. Prof. Arjuna Parakrama

105. Prof. Camena Guneratne

106. Prof. Daya Somasundaram

107. Prof. Desmond Mallikarachchi

108. Prof. Gameela Samarasinghe

109. Prof. Gananath Obeysekere

110. Prof. Jayantha Seneviratne

111. Prof. Kumar David

112. Prof. Maithree Wickramasinghe

113. Prof. Nilanthi de Silva

114. Prof. Priyan Dias

115. Prof. Rohan Fernando

116. Prof. Savitri Goonesekere

117. Prof. Sitralega Maunaguru

118. Prof. Vijaya Kumar

119. Rajan Hoole

120. Ranjith Perera

121. Rev. Dr. Jayasiri Peiris

122. Rosanna Flamer-Caldera

123. Roshan Quintus

124. Ruki Fernando

125. S. C. C. Elankovan

126. S.P. Pushpakanthan

127. Sachini Perera

128. Sanjana Hattotuwa

129. Sanjayan Rajasingham

130. Sarah Arumugam

131. Sarala Emmanuel

132. Sarath de Alwis

133. Senel Wanniarachchi

134. Shafinaz Hassandeen

135. Shalomi Daniel

136. Shanika Perera

137. Sherine Xavier

138. Sherman de Rose

139. Shreen Abdul Saroor

140. Silma Ahamed

141. Subha Wijesiriwardena

142. Sugath Amarasekera

143. Sumathipala Kariyawasam

144. Sumika Perera

145. Sumith Abeykoon

146. Sunela Jayewardene

147. Sunethra Rajakarunanayake

148. Sunil Perera

149. Suriya Wickremasinghe

150. Tanuja Thurairajah

151. Tassie Seneviratne

152. Tharanga de Silva

153. Thilak Kariyawasam

154. Thiyagaraja Waradas

155. Tisaranee Gunasekara

156. Tissa Jayatilaka

157. Titus Fernando

158. Tracy Holsinger Tennekoon

159. Uween Jayasinha

160. Vanamali Kaushalya Galappatti

161. Victor Ivan

162. Visaka Dharmadasa

163. Vishnu Vasu

164. W. Jayasiri

165. Wasantha A Liyanage

Organisations:

1. Association of War Affected Women

2. Centre for Human Rights and Development

3. Centre for Policy Alternatives

4. Centre for Social Concerns

5. Dabindu Collective

6. Equal Ground

7. Families of the Disappeared

8. International Centre for Ethnic Studies

9. Mothers and Daughters of Lanka

10. Muslim Women’s Research and Action Front

11. National Peace Council

12. Parents of Servicemen Missing in Action

13. Right to Life Human Rights Center

14. Rights Now – Collective for Democracy

15. Sri Lanka Committee Against Torture

16. Sri Lanka Nature Group

17. Uva Shakthi Foundation

18. Women Development Centre, Badulla

19. Women’s Political Academy

20. Women’s Resource Center

21. Young Asia Television

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