For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya
Sunday, 15 August 2010 15:27
Intellectuals for Human Right (IH fR) has forwarded a letter to UN Secretary General Mr. Ban Ki-Moon to urge him to intervene against the deterioration of democracy and human right violations in Sri Lanka. This letter was submitted by Dr. A. A. J Rajarathne General Secretary of IHfR to inform General Secretary with regard to human rights abuses and suppression of democracy being carried out by government of Sri Lanka.
Here is the letter in full:
“We, Intellectuals for Human Rights (IfHR), a non-governmental and non-profit earning organization of intellectuals and professionals who are committed to promote and protect human rights in and outside Sri Lanka are writing to urge you to use your position as the Secretary General of the United Nations to raise the concerns about the continuous deterioration of the democracy and serious human rights situation in Sri Lanka by the present government. Especially recent development of threat to the opposition parties and other civil groups and suppression of freedom of expression.
We urge you and the other international community to intervene to arrest this trend that we, all human right organizations and citizens concern the protection of the freedom and democracy, believe that the present ruling party of Sri Lanka is heading towards totalitarian rule.
We especially forward the details of the following incidents that took place last week regarding terror against opposition parties.
On 12 August 2010, in Galle, the police forcefully stopped a democratic and peaceful protest organized by the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) demanding the release of retired General Sarath Fonseka, the leader of the DNA , and to end abuse of democracy and bring down the cost of living.
At the beginning of the peaceful demonstration the police had ordered the protesters to disperse . But the organizers had pointed out to the police that there were no laws to prevent a peaceful protest march and their legitimate rights for freedom of expressions and had continued the protest. Thereafter the police brutally attacked the demonstrators using teargas and baton charged them injuring several people. Several protestors were arrested.
Later the DNA members including parliamentarians Mr. Vijitha Herath, the secretary of the DNA and Mr. Ajith Kumara who went to Galle police station to lodge a complaint against the attack and to request the release of their supporters were beaten and arrested by the police, according to our sources, on an order had received from the Secretary of Defense. They had been produced before the Magistrates Court and remanded until August 16 under bogus charges filed by the police saying that they had damaged state property and attacked police officers.
We, IHR believe that this incident is a crucial turning point in the suppression of democracy and human rights in this country by the present government. The government has been suppressing opposition political parties, the rights of such parties and citizens to hold peaceful protests against what they believe are unfair or undemocratic acts. This is the latest incident and we believe that illustrates a very serious trend due to several reasons.
Firstly, the police have suppressed the rights of the people to stage peaceful protests. Secondly it shows the supremacy of the law has been challenged and the people cannot trust upon the law enforcement authority, the police, because they assault and lodge bogus charges against complainants who go to police seeking protection. Thirdly a dictatorship is being forming attacking people’s representatives of the opposition political parties and arresting them on bogus charges.
Apart from this incident there is a series of similar incidents that have taken place in the recent past that killed several people when they were under police custody including a university student, rape of a ex-woman solider by three police officers inside a police station, unlawful punishment to a government officer by bounding him to a tree by a cabinet minister that shows the rule of the law is not enforced in the country.
Abolition of the Police Commission by the President has given unwarranted power to the police and scope to the ruling party politicians to influence the police. The Secretary of Defense, a brother of the President, controls the police and security forces according to his wishes and fancies ignoring the law of the country. He acts as a politician rather than a senior administrative government officer. He has powers to detain people without producing them to courts under Prevention of Terrorism Act. We IfHR strongly feel that the Present Government of Sri Lanka routinely abuses democracy and Human Rights without fear of being held to account.
Our particular concern is the failure of the international community to press the Sri Lankan government to end abuses. We respectfully urge you and other international community to use any influence you have to halt the abuses of democracy and human rights carried out by the government.