FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION SRI LANKA

For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya

Sri Lanka 11. Freedom of Religion, Expression, Association and Movement:

(from the Submission by the Catholic Diocese of Mannar to the LLRC)

Read the full Report: LLRC submission by Mannar Diocese-08Jan2011-final

Almost 20th months after the end of the war, it is disturbing that restrictions on expression, association and movement that are not in force in other parts of the country and communities are being imposed on recently resettled Tamil people. On several occasions, the military had cancelled religious services to remember and pray for civilians killed or missing and even some of our priests have been threatened and intimidated for their attempts to commemorate those who were killed during the war.

While celebrations for the war victory had been held under government patronage, no efforts have been made by the government to express solidarity with families of those killed, missing and injured in the war, by observing a National Day of Mourning.

Attempts to protest peacefully about land occupation and lack of basic facilities had also drawn threats and intimidations.

` Church organizations and NGOs have been instructed in writing and verbally by the Government Agent of Vavuniya and the Army in Mannar that no events should be organized without inviting the military.

Restrictions on travel still remain and even last month, some overseas visitors were prevented from visiting people in Manthai West division.
Such restrictions make Tamil people in these areas feel that they are living under military rule and cannot enjoy the rights and liberties that people in other parts of Sri Lanka enjoy. Restrictive measures for peaceful and humanitarian activities also create further tensions and distance between the Government and Tamil people, and should be avoided in order to move towards reconciliation. Travel restrictions on foreign nationals who are interested to help resettled people deny these people opportunities to get further assistance.
Suggestions:

11.1 People, community leaders and religious leaders should be free to organize peaceful events and meetings without restrictions.

11.2 The government should declare a national day of mourning, to remember civilians who have been killed in the war.

11.3 Visitors from outside the district and from overseas should be allowed to freely visit their friends and relatives in recently resettled areas without having to obtain prior permission from the Ministry of Defense.

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