For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya
NfR Sri Lanka, a net work of journalists and human rights defenders, dismayed and shocked that once again the Government of Sri Lanka has unleashed state terror on students and journalists in Jaffna in flagrant violation of peoples right to peaceful assembly, an universal right enjoyed by people in the democratic world. This is an assault on freedom of expression rights as well.
This brutal assault took place on 27th Nov 2012 in Jaffna when University students led remembrance was being held. Number of students was injured as a result, editor of the Jaffna based best selling news paper Uthayan was manhandled by the military and photographers were forced to delete the pictures of military and police brutality. Among the journalists assaulted are staff of another Jaffna based newspaper, Valampuri and students of the journalism training centre, Jaffna.
Reports reaching form Jaffna, the Tamil heart land, say that media organizations in the Jaffna peninsula has decided to boycott media briefings and events organised by the army and police personals as show of solidarity and protest. NfR wholeheartedly support their legitimate action.
On November 13 this year supporters and sympathizers of the Jathika Vimukthi Peramuna, a Sinhalese political movement held ceremonies in Colombo to commemorate death anniversary of its founder Rohana Wijeweera. He was summarily executed by military on 13th Nov 1989. Hundreds, including school children participated in the meeting and rally. No one was hurt or arrested for gathering to commemorate their leader. Media was freely allowed to cover and report the event.
In contrast, Jaffna university students who gathered to commemorate Heroes Day, on November 27th, to remember those who have died in the Eelam liberation struggle and the leader of the LTTE,Vellupullai Prabhakaran met with violence at the hands of the police and army. Members of the media too who were covering the ceremonies have been manhandled.
Networking for Rights denounces the violence and aggression meted out on the students and the manner in which the two occasions have been handled. According to eye witness accounts at least 7 students who participated in the commemoration in the North have been injured and several arrested. Parliamentarian E. Saravanaphawan, who had gone to the assistance of the students was not spared either; being rudely spoken to by an army official and his vehicle damaged.
If the JVP and its followers are allowed to commemorate their dead, the same courtesy should be extended to the followers of the LTTE. Both organisations are responsible for human rights violations and for using armed terror, including killing of innocent civilians, to various degrees. In both cases state terror surpassed that of insurgents.
Furthermore, if the Sri Lankan government is sincere in its efforts to build a united Sri Lanka, where every citizen, irrespective of ethnicity or religion feels welcome and his or her rights respected, then the use of force against the people of the north, only negates that aspiration. Since the end of the war against the LTTE in May 2009, there have been increasing number of incidents where Tamils have been, killed, tortured, harassed, and even the graves of the dead been desecrated. Their right to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly have been grossly violated.
The government and its troops continue to treat the Tamil people shabbily; stationing of more troops in areas inhabited by the Tamil people and the continued militarisation and attempts to Sinhalisation of those areas will not win the hearts of the Tamil people. Such action will only further alienate the Tamil people. Continued aggression and suppression of their rights will only lead to a new forms of resistance.
NfR calls upon the government to desist from such actions and hold those responsible for such violence accountable, if it sincerely aspires to build a united and peaceful Sri Lanka.