In a memorandum submitted to Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ceylon Teachers Union has urged United Nations “to continue to follow up on the situation and urge to enhance its monitoring of Sri Lanka’s compliance with international human rights law, including to ensure that human rights are protected throughout.”
Further it calls on international missions and diplomatic missions based in Colombo to do the same.
In the introduction the memorandum says that ” The space for Sri Lankan civil society, human rights defenders and media freedom is rapidly shrinking. For several months now, civil society organizations, human rights defenders, poets, Journalists have been subject to intensified military surveillance and questioning by different government authorities.
” Since January 2020, the Government of Sri Lanka has established multiple Presidential Task Forces. Decisions have been taken with no oversight by Parliament. The COVID 19 response and management also presided by a head of military resulted poor management of Covid 2nd and 3rd waves in Sri Lanka and made lots of controversial decision that resulted violation of rights of human rights defenders and minority community in Sri Lanka.
“Sri Lankan civil society has raised a serious concern that the task force can extend military control over civilian life. Its power can be abused to curtail dissenting voices which are deemed to be “harmful to the free and peaceful existence of society”. The increased deployment of military personnel along with the police, and the disproportionate use of force against peaceful protesters, as observed recently, are also alarming.
Explaining in detail the protest held by CTU with IUSF against the the enactment of Kothalawala National Defense University (KDU) bill the memorandum says that “the proposed KDU Bill offers a privatized, military model of higher education, which will take Sri Lanka on a trajectory towards militarization of society as a whole.
” Under this propose bill the Minister of Defense has the authority to instruct the Board of Governors to take all steps against any “national security threats” (undefined) or what the Minister deems as a threat to the “smooth‟ functioning of the University. It also has the authority to demand any information from an employee or student in the interest of national security and to prohibit any person deemed a threat to national security from entering the University precincts or “any part thereof‟.
“The CTU and IUSF knowing the great harm to the whole higher education system & militarization of education by enacting the Kothalawala National Defense University Bill and to protect the rights of students called for a peaceful assembly and protest on July 8, 2021.
“Accordingly, the protesters gathered in Battaramulla on July 8, 2021 around the morning with their placards against the bill and lined up with 1 meter distance and
wearing the facemasks without interruption to the public and passengers using the pavement in the Battaramulla junction. At the time, the group of Police presented to
the scene and used excessive forced to disperse the protesters and arrested around 30 persons including the activist, human rights defender and General Secretary of the Ceylon Teachers Union Mr. Joseph Stalin.
“On the same day, all of them were produced before the Colombo Magistrate and all of them were released on personal bail of Rs. 25,000. Police requested an order from Magistrate to send them for quarantine center but it was refused by the Magistrate. However, regardless the order of the magistrate, the police officers acted in a unruly manner and forcefully taken all the protesters to the quarantine center in Mullaitivu without any presence of health authority or antigen test or PCR test.”