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Sri Lanka Brief Rights Update: 01-30 June, 2023

01 June: Bruno Divakara, the owner of the YouTube channel ‘SL VLOG’ who was arrested on May 31, was remanded until June 07. The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) arrested the ‘SL VLOG’ owner on 28 May evening. after grilling him over the recent controversial comments by stand-up comedian Nathasha Edirisooriya. She was also placed behind bars on remand until June 07 after being produced before the Colombo Fort Magistrate’s Court soon after her arrest.

03 June: President Ranil Wickremeisnghe violated election laws by appointing UNP’s mayoral candidate Rosy Senanayake as the Presidential Advisor on Local Government. She has submitted nominations for the Colombo Municipal Council from the UNP list. It is illegal to appoint a candidate to such a post pending an election.

04 June: Hundreds of foreign refugees and asylum seekers are facing an uncertain future in Sri Lanka as the local UN refugee agency representation office in Colombo plans to wind up its operations by the end of this year. Since the early 1970s, Ahmadis, most foreign refugees in Sri Lanka have been subjected to persecution on religious grounds in Pakistan and forced to practise their religion privately.

04 June: Chairman of the Election Commission Nimal Punchihewa views the government’s latest decision to appoint special representatives of the Chairmen of Regional Coordinating Committees to oversee the affairs of the local government bodies as inappropriate and against the democratic norms.

04 June: President Ranil Wickremesinghe wants to strengthen the military and confer more powers on the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS).

04 June: The Judicial Service Association of Sri Lanka ,JSASL  expressed its profound discontent with certain names proposed for the imminent appointments due to be made to the High Court.  The letter was ignored and contested appointments were made.

04 June: Opposition parties slammed President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s claims of people’s disinterest in elections and politics. Though under flak for not holding local polls as scheduled, President Ranil Wickremesinghe claimed about a loss of faith in elections and politics among the majority of the population, including the youth.

05 June: The Parliamentary Opposition led by the Samagi Jana Balawegaya  decided to oppose the proposed Broadcasting Authority Bill.

05 June: A group of 15 belonged to the Narcotic Unit of the Excise Department and had been drunk started a quarrel at a restaurant located inside the One Galle Face Mall.

06 June: Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa said that the individual was fined Rs. 70 million for the gold worth Rs. 80 million while the MP was fined only Rs. 7.5 million for the gold worth Rs. 74 million and questioned as to how the law applies differently to an MP and an ordinary citizen for a similar offence.

06 June: The Court of Appeal postponed delivering the verdict of the petition filed against State Minister Diana Gamage’s parliamentary membership. The verdict, which was supposed to be announced on 6th was thus delayed until July 25.

06 June: Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva, who accused the media of involving him and Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardane in the ordeal experience by Venerable Ajahn Brahmawanso (Ajahn Brahm Thera), said it was a case warranting regulation of media activities.

7 June: Colombo Fort Magistrate’s Court has ordered the stand-up comedian Nathasha Edirisooriya and the owner of the YouTube channel ‘SL VLOG’ Bruno Divakara to be remanded in custody until June 21, 2023.

07 June: Mohomed Sulthan who was arrested in May 2020 &threatened him to incriminate Hejaaz Hizbullah. He refused so detained under the PTA for 18 months. Produced before a judge in October 2021 and remanded. In August 2022 he was Gazetted as a ‘terrorist’ and accounts frozen. On June 7, 2023, after 3 years AG informed court that they will not be filing any case against him. He was discharged without any   compensation or apology.

07 June: Police obtained a court order preventing the Inter-University Students’ Federation (IUSF) convenor and 12 others from holding protests while inconveniencing pedestrians and vehicular movement. The order also prevents the protesters from entering the President’s Office, the President’s House, the Finance Ministry, and the Galle Face area. The protest march took place in Colombo cited several demands from the Government.

07 June: Police fires tear gas and water cannons to disperse protesting university students near the Sri Jayawardenapura University at Wijerama Junction in Nugegoda. The protest march had been organized by the Inter-University Students’ Federation (IUSF) based on several demands including the revoking of the suspensions imposed on several university student activists.

08 June: Trade Unionists accused Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation of banning all trade union activity, including meetings and discussions at the corporation’s Colombo head office and initiating disciplinary inquiries against Diwakara Athugala and the Media Secretary of the Union, Nayomi Hettiarachchige. The Trade Unions claim SLIC has sent warning letters to around 50 employees for being part of ‘illegal’ gatherings within the organisation.

08 June: Sri Lanka Police obtained ban against Jathika Jana Balavegaya Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake and several others, preventing them from protesting along roads leading to the National Election Commission in Rajagiriya, Colombo. The Jathika Jana Balavegaya had planned to protest opposite the National Election Commission to demand that the Local Government Election be held. The protest went ahead.

09 June: Seven personnel of the Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB), including a Sub-Inspector, who were arrested over the death of a Vocational Training Officer A.G. Samantha Preethi Kumara, a father of two from Hikkaduwa in custody further remanded.  Kumara was arrested by the PNB on 10 January near the National Vocational Training Institute in Narahenpita allegedly having 15 grams of heroin and beaten to death.

09 June: The AG informed Magistrate Court Fort that they will not pursue any charges against two of the four persons arrested in relation to Hejaaz Hizbullah case on 18 May 23. The remaining two persons to be charged under the ICCPR Act. Dropped charges under the PTA Though arrested under PTA.

09 June: New laws to be introduced for the mandatory registration of non-governmental organizations at the NGO secretariat, ‘so that we can monitor them closely’ said Public Security Minister Tiran Alles.

12 June: Ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna said that it will not initiate any form of disciplinary action against State Minister Lohan Ratwatte over the incident of him having forcibly entered the Welikada and Anuradhapura Prisons and intimidated several inmates in 2021 until the charges against him are proven through the relevant court proceedings.

14 June: All Island Canteen Owners’ Association Head Asela Sampath was summoned to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) to record a statement over a press conference in 2021 on a government endorsed consumer goods pack.

14 June: The Computer Crime Investigation Division arrested 06 youths who posted a video on Tik Tok showing how they are holding a fake alcohol festival on Poson full moon day. They were later released on bail.

15 June: Popular political Vogler Darshana Hadungoda has faced continuing harassment without any legal action against him. Police have demanded to hand over his professional equipment so that he will not be able to run his programmes.

15 June: Venerable Omalpe Sobhitha Thero alleged that the Director General of the Archaeology Department resigned from his post as he feared his life.  “The Director General of the Department of Archaeology tendered his resignation citing personal reasons. The personal reasons are very clear to us. He feared his for his life”.

17 June: A special Gazette notification (2336/78) issued declaring several services as essential public services. According to the notification all services connected to the supply of electricity, the supply or distribution of petroleum products and fuel, all services, work or labour, of any description whatsoever, necessary or required to be done in connection with the maintenance, and reception, care, feeding and treatment of patients in hospitals, nursing homes, dispensaries and other similar institutions have been declared as essential services.

19 June: Lawyers for Lawyers, the Bar Human Rights Committee, the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Committee, International Commission of Jurists, the Law Society of England and Wales, and Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada, the International Federation for Human Rights and the World Organisation Against Torture  issued a joint statement expressing their concern about the ongoing violations of fair trial rights in the ongoing trial of Sri Lankan lawyer and human rights defender Hejaaz Hizbullah.

 

 

21 June: The debate on the Anti-Corruption Bill was held in Parliament, but the vote was postponed until the next session. Justice, Prison Affairs and Constitutional Reforms Minister Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe said that it was suggested that the Bill for the protection of victims and witnesses of a crime should be passed in the next parliamentary week along with the Anti-Corruption Bill, because that Act has references related to the other Act.

21 June: Civil organisations called for the removal of Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella and Health Ministry Secretary Janaka Sri Chandragupta, accusing the duo of having weakened the entire health system in nearly a year. The Medical and Civil Rights Professional Association of Doctors (MCPA) accused the Minister and the Secretary of posing a threat to the lives of Sri Lankan citizens.

21 June: Participating in the debate over proposed Anti-Corruption Act, ruling party MP Nalaka Bandara proposed to kill persons convicted by court of law for corruption by shooting to the head.

21 June: Comedian Natasha Edirisooriya further remanded till 05 July under ICCPR Act Fort Magistrate’s Court. Meanwhile issuing a statement CIVICUS, a global civil society alliance, urges the government of Sri Lanka to immediately release youth activist and stand-up comedian Nathasha Edirisooriya and drop the charges against her unconditionally.

21 June: Bruno Divakara owner of the “SL Vlog” has been acquitted of all the charges against him when he was produced to Fort Magistrate. He was arrested & detained under ICCPR Act.

21 June: Ven. Rajangane Saddharathana thera who was arrested by police in Anuradhapura for making statements that could allegedly disrupt religious harmony, further remanded under ICCPR Act till 5 July.

21 June: Police have recorded statements from two Tamil journalists , freelance journalists Pradeepan Thambithurai and Dharmalingam Paramasivan from Jaffna and Kilinochchi with regard to the incident that happened in Maruthankerni where state investigative agencies allegedly threatened Jaffna district MP and Tamil National People’s Front (TNPF) leader Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam.

22 June: Issuing a report, ‘Mass Graves and Failed Exhumations in Sri Lanka’ five civil society groups called on government  to investigate mass graves which they say contain the remains of so-called “disappeared” in various civil conflicts. that “if the Sri Lankan government is serious about dealing with the past it must commit to have international observers at all exhumations of mass graves,” the groups insisted.

23 June: The Colombo High Court acquitted 21 former university student activists from 29 charges including unlawful assembly, causing injuries to police officers and charges under the Public Property Act, following a demonstration held in Colombo on October 14, 2010.

23 June: The Supreme Court  granted leave to proceed against Western Province Senior DIG Deshabandu Tennakoon and other police officers over the arrest made in respect of protesters at Lipton Circus and Colpetty in 2020, while they were staging a protest over the US police murder of George Floyd.

23 June: A police sergeant who exposed abuse in police via YouTube was suspended by Colombo South ASP C.A. Abeygunawardana. The sergeant was attached to Cinnamon Garden police station, Colombo.

24 June: A person in Hambantota harbour police custody found dead allegedly by hanging. The 45-year-old person had been arrested over a child abuse case. No further inquiry was held on this custodial death.

25 June: Social media activist Piyath Nikeshala was arrested by the Criminal Investigation Department when he was summoned before the CID to obtain a statement regarding the live streaming on social media on the incident of the burning of President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s private residence in Colombo on July 09, 2022.

26 June: President Wickremasinghe speaking to France24 made it clear that Sri Lanka will not initiate any judicial investigation into war crimes, mass graves. He emphasised that any such parrall investigation will hamper the proposed Truth and Reconciliation Commission process.

26 June: Two persons, who were arrested in relation to HR lawyer Hejaaz Hizbullah case, Jusair and Anas were indicted under the ICCPR Act  were granted bail on by the Puttlam High Court. Their case is fixed for July 10, 2023.

27 June: A five-member bench of the Supreme Court rejected the preliminary objections filed by the Attorney General and Secretary to the Ministry of Finance, seeking the dismissal of two Fundamental Rights (FR) petitions filed against the postponement of 2023 Local Government (LG) elections.

28 June: Poet and teacher Ahnaf Jazeem ‘s PTA case was taken up in  Puttalam High Court. Under the cross examination a student witness said that TID did not read his statement out to him before his signature was obtained.  This is the second student refused his confession produced by the TID.

27 June: The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL), in a letter dated addressed to President Ranil Wickremesinghe, stressed the need to restore public confidence in the police. The letter reminds the President that the post of IGP has fallen vacant on 26 June.

28 June: Bruno Divakara, who was arrested earlier in relation to detained Nathasha Edirisooriya’ s comedy was summoned before the Illegal Assets Investigation Division of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID in connection with an ongoing investigation.

29 June: Recently gazetted Private Member’s Bill presented by Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) MP Jayantha Ketagoda is a death blow to the sovereignty of the people and democracy; The bill does not specify for how long a Minister will be able to reactivate LG bodies and governments could misuse the law to not hold elections when unfavourable,  stressed the People’s Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL).

30 June: The Broadcaster’s Guild of Sri Lanka demanded the Government promptly retract the proposed draft for the establishment of a Broadcasting Regulatory Commission. The guild warned that the implementation of this proposal would result in a harmful impact, restricting the media landscape and curtailing freedom of expression, thought, and conscience.

30 June: Archbishop of Colombo Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, in a letter addressed to President Ranil Wickremesinghe informed him not to consider appointing Senior DIGs Nilatha Jayawardene and Deshabandu Tennekoon as IGP.

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