For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya
Karu Jayasuriya M.P.
It is in the strongest possible terms that the arrest of former UNP Deputy Mayor Azath Salley must be condemned by all right thinking peoples of this country. His arrest – for allegedly inciting communal hatred under the prevention of terrorism act, is further proof that the Government continues to retain these repressive war time laws to hunt political opponents in peace time.
Mr. Salley’s arrest must not come as a surprise to any observer who has been witnessing the dismal levels to which law enforcement in this country has descended. Mr. Salley’s offence has been to warn of the dire consequences this country could —face if hate campaigns against a single community continue to grow.
Mr. Salley should in fact be saluted for speaking out against hate groups targeting one community of people in this country, when the Government continues to watch from the sidelines as another conflict brews in our island. In terms of battling racial hatred and calling for unity in Sri Lanka, all of us stand beside Mr. Salley. Many of us would fight to the end to prevent Sri Lanka from taking another dangerous turn down the road to a repeat of a 1983 type conflagration. The crime Mr. Salley has purportedly committed by an increasingly tyrannical regime should be work like a badge of honour by all patriotic Sri Lankans who do not believe in ethnic or religious divisions or hatred.
The arrest of Mr. Salley for alleged statements to a newspaper comes at the same time when a politician who is accused of a quadruple murder including that of a ruling party leader was granted bail. Sri Lankans are intelligent enough to see not only the irony of these events but the sheer shamelessness and the disgusting impunity with which the current regime governs. An alleged murder suspect is given police protection and a ceremonial welcome at the Presidential palace soon after receiving bail while an activist calling for unity and warning against an impending division is arrested for being a terrorist.
With the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting due to be held in Sri lanka in November 2013 the world’s attention is drawn to our country. It is sad that our government continues to demonstrate that it does not adhere to any Commonwealth values that prescribe good governance, freedom of expression, democracy and the rule of law. While Sri Lanka has lost its standing as a shining democracy this regime seems determined to further tarnish our country’s image as a lawless land where goons rule and injustice prevails.
I call upon all freedom loving Sri Lankans to recognize the grave injustices being carried out by the ruling regime. The intimidation of Mr. Azath Salley is not just aimed at an individual. It is aimed at an idea, an idea that all Sri Lankans can live as one, an idea that there will be justice in this land and above all an idea that Sri Lanka need not be consumed once again by the flames of hatred and war. It is an idea that is worth preserving and fighting for, even against the mightiest odds.
(Text of a statement released by senior UNP Parliamentarian Karu Jayasuriya MP)