1200 x 80 DMirror

 
 

Civil society activists and organisations in Sri Lanka have condemned the government's response to a testimony given by prominent human rights lawyer Ambika Satkunanathan at the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights.

Sri Lanka's Foreign Ministry in a statement said that the testimony of the Chairperson of the Neelan Tiruchelvam Trust, Ambika Satkunanathan, contained numerous misleading statements, adding that "unfounded allegations about discrimination of ethnic communities in her testimony are reminiscent of LTTE propaganda that once stoked hatred among communities."

The civil society activits and organisations pointed out that rather than engaging substantively with the issues raised, the Sri Lankan Government instead has chosen to cast aspersions on an individual with an unimpeachable record of principled research, advocacy and public service for the improvement of human rights in Sri Lanka.

"The attempt by the Foreign Ministry to draw an analogy between the independent advocacy of a Tamil activist and researcher with the claims of the LTTE is both unwarranted, mischievous and chilling. The insinuation that pointing out the differential impact of government policies, state institutions and their practices on Tamil and Muslim communities is in some way ‘stoking hatred among communities’ and harmful to ‘social harmony’ is also deeply troubling. Given how the PTA and ICCPR Act have been used in Sri Lanka in the recent past by the State to target critical individuals and members of minority communities, this characterisation is ominous," the joint statement signed by 161 Civil Society activists and 47 organisations said.

 

Full statement is as follows.

05th February, 2022

Statement of Condemnation

In Solidarity with human rights lawyer and advocate, Ambika Satkunanathan

We, the undersigned civil society individuals and organisations, are deeply concerned by the response of the Foreign Ministry, dated 4th February, 2022, to the statement made by human rights lawyer and advocate, former Commissioner of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, and Chairperson of the Neelan Tiruchelvam Trust, Ambika Satkunanathan, at the hearing of the European Parliament’s sub-committee on human rights, on the 27th of January, 2022.

In her submission, Ms. Satkunanathan made a critical assessment of the human rights situation in Sri Lanka and its international and national obligations to its citizens, and provided recommendations to European Union member states.

Rather than engage substantively with the issues raised, the Sri Lankan Government instead chose to cast aspersions on an individual with an unimpeachable record of principled research, advocacy and public service for the improvement of human rights in Sri Lanka.

The attempt by the Foreign Ministry to draw an analogy between the independent advocacy of a Tamil activist and researcher with the claims of the LTTE is both unwarranted, mischievous and chilling.

 

The insinuation that pointing out the differential impact of government policies, state institutions and their practices on Tamil and Muslim communities is in some way ‘stoking hatred among communities’ and harmful to ‘social harmony’ is also deeply troubling. Given how the PTA and ICCPR Act have been used in Sri Lanka in the recent past by the State to target critical individuals and members of minority communities, this characterisation is ominous.

 

Retaining or losing GSP+ trade privileges is entirely based on the European Union’s assessment of the conduct of the Sri Lankan Government with respect to labour rights, human rights, environmental protection and good governance.

The suggestion that it is human rights advocacy that jeopardises GSP+ trade privileges which are crucial for the Sri Lankan economy is highly disingenuous.

 

We consider the targeting of outspoken members of civil society by a government institution using dangerous insinuations to be a form of intimidation aimed at stifling dissent and freedom of expression.

 

Statements such as this by the Foreign Ministry, we believe, aim to constrain civil society engagement as an independent interlocutor with the international community on democracy and rights issues, standing up for the rights and protection of affected communities and individuals.

Like Ms. Satkunanathan, many in civil society have been raising concerns regarding the operational environment for civil society organisations and activists, and the threat of a repressive new law.

We note with deep concern the continuing incidents of harassment of victim-survivors, human rights activists, media workers and civil society organisations by state actors.

Creating an enabling environment for civil society will require more than mere assertions that civil society is treated as a partner, and the shifting of the NGO Secretariat to a new Ministry.

We remain willing to engage with the government in an honest, principled and constructive dialogue on this, and the other substantive issues raised by Ms. Satkunanathan, which we share and stand-by. However, the targeting of civil society activists in this manner by the Foreign Ministry does not inspire confidence or trust.

We condemn this statement of the Foreign Ministry, and stand in solidarity with Ms. Ambika Satkunanathan and all other civil society activists engaged in the processes of promoting and protecting human rights, democracy and genuine reconciliation in Sri Lanka.

Signatories;

Individuals

  1. A.R.A. Ramees
  2. Ainslie Joseph – Convenor, People’s Movement for Good Governance (PeMOGG)
  3. Amalini De Sayrah
  4. Ameena Hussein
  5. Ameer Faaiz
  6. Aneesa Firthous
  7. Anithra Varia
  8. Anthony Jesudasan
  9. Anthony Vinoth
  10. Anuratha Rajaretnam
  11. Anushani Alagarajah
  12. Anushaya Collure
  13. Aruni Jayakody
  14. B. Gowthaman
  15. Bhavani Fonseka
  16. Bisliya Bhutto
  17. C. Ranitha Gnanarajah, AAL
  18. Chamila Thushari
  19. Chandra Devanarayana
  20. Channaka Jayasinghe
  21. Chintaka Rajapakse
  22. Chulani Kodikara
  23. Damaris Wickremesekera
  24. Dammika Munasinghe – Secretary, Joint Development Officers Centre
  25. Deekshya Illangasinghe
  26. Deshamanya Godfrey Yogarajah
  27. Dharsha Jegatheeswaran
  28. Dinushika Dissanayake
  29. Dorin Rajani
  30. Dr. Dinesha Samararatne
  31. Dr. K. Guruparan, Attorney-at-Law
  32. Dr. Kalana Senaratne – University of Peradeniya
  33. Dr. Kaushalya Ariyarathne
  34. Dr. Mahendran Thiruvarangan – University of Jaffna
  35. Dr. Nimalka Fernando, Attorney-at-Law
  36. Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu
  37. Dr. Radhika Coomaraswamy
  38. Dr. Ruvan Weerasinghe
  39. Dr. Sanjana Hattotuwa
  40. Dr. Thusiyan Nandakumar
  41. E.M.S.N. Ekanayaka
  42. Erandika de Silva – University of Jaffna
  43. Ermiza Tegal
  44. Faizun Zackeriya
  45. Farah Mihlar
  46. Farzana Haniffa
  47. Fathima Majitha
  48. Francis Costa Priyankara
  49. Francis Raajan
  50. Gehan Gunatilleke
  51. Harindrini Corea, Attorney-at-Law
  52. Herman Kumara
  53. Hilmy Ahamed
  54. Hyshyama Hamin – Women’s Rights Activist
  55. Indunil Usgoda Arachchi
  56. Iromi Perera
  57. Ishara Danasekara
  58. J. Yardsan Figurado
  59. Jaabir Raazi Muhammadh
  60. Jake Oorloff
  61. Jayani Abeysekara
  62. Jehan Jegatheesan
  63. Joanne Senn
  64. Juwariya Mohideen
  65. K. Aingkaran, Attorney-at-Law
  66. K. Nihal Ahamad
  67. K.J. Brito Fernando
  68. K.S. Ratnavale, Attorney-at-Law
  69. K.Thananjan
  70. Kalani Subasinghe
  71. Kamala Vasuki – Batticaloa
  72. Kumaran Nadesan
  73. Kumudini Samuel
  74. Lahiru Perera – Family Rehabilitation Centre
  75. Lakkitha Samarakone
  76. Lakshman Gunasekara – Journalist
  77. Lal Wijenayake – Convenor, Lawyers For Democracy
  78. Linus Jayatilake – President, United Federation of Labour
  79. Lucille Abeykoon
  80. Luwie Ganeshathasan
  81. M. Kusum Silva – Citizens Committee, Gampaha District
  82. M.A. Wahid
  83. Mahaluxmy Kurushanthan
  84. Maithreyi Rajasingam, Attorney-at-Law
  85. Mario Arulthas
  86. Mario Gomez
  87. Marisa de Silva
  88. Michael Joachim
  89. Mike Gabriel
  90. Mirak Raheem
  91. N.M. Saroor
  92. Nagulan Nesiah
  93. Nethmini Medawala, Attorney-at-Law
  94. Nilshan Fonseka
  95. Nurun Anberiya Hanifa
  96. P. Muthulingam
  97. P.M. Mujeebur Rahman, LLB
  98. P.N. Singham
  99. Pasan Jayasinghe
  100. Peter Rezel
  101. Philip Dissanayake
  102. Prabodha Rathnanaya, AAL
  103. Prabu Deepan
  104. Priyatharshiny Rajendran
  105. Prof. Arjuna Parakrama – University of Peradeniya
  106. Prof. Maithree Wickramasinghe
  107. Prof. Shamala Kumar – University of Peradeniya
  108. Prof. Sumathy Sivamohan – University of Peradeniya
  109. Puni Selvaratnam
  110. Raghu Balachandran
  111. Ramalingam Sivapragasam
  112. Ramani Muttettuwegama, Attorney-at-Law
  113. Rehab Mahamoor
  114. Rev. Fr. Nandana Manatunga
  115. Rev. Fr. Terence Fernando
  116. Rev. Sr. Noel Christine Fernando
  117. Rohana Hettiarachchi
  118. Rohini Hensman – Writer, Researcher and Activist
  119. Ruki Fernando
  120. S. Kamalakanthan – Social Activist
  121. S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole – Formerly of the Election Commission and UGC, and Michigan State University
  122. S.C.C. Elankovan – Lawyer and Development Consultant
  123. S.M. Anifa
  124. S.T. Ganeshalingam
  125. Sabra Zahid
  126. Safana Gul Begum
  127. Sajini Fernando, AAL
  128. Sakuntala Kadirgamar
  129. Sampath Samarakoon – Editor, vikalpa.org
  130. Sandun Thudugala
  131. Sanjula Pietersz, AAL
  132. Sarah Arumugam, AAL
  133. Sarala Emmanuel – Researcher
  134. Selvaraja Rajasegar – Editor, maatram.org
  135. Senaka Perera, AAL
  136. Senel Wanniarachchi
  137. Shafinaz Hassendeen
  138. Shalomi Daniel
  139. Sharmaine Gunaratne, AAL
  140. Sheila Richards
  141. Shivantha Rathnayake
  142. Shreen Saroor
  143. Shyamala Gomez
  144. Sirany Thevakumar – Rights based activist
  145. Srinath Perera – General Secretary, Free Trade Union Centre
  146. Stella Victor
  147. Sunanda Deshapriya – Journalist, Writer and Human Rights Activist
  148. Sunil Shantha Ganewaththa
  149. Suren D. Perera, AAL
  150. Suresh Fernando, Attorney-at-Law
  151. Swasthika Arulingam
  152. Sylvester Jayakody – General Secretary, Ceylon Mercantile Industrial and General Workers Union (CMU)
  153. Tanuja Thurairajah
  154. Tehani Ariyaratne
  155. Thiagi Piyadasa – Lawyer and Researcher
  156. Thyagi Ruwanpathirana – Researcher
  157. Tisaranee Gunasekara
  158. Vanie Simon
  159. Ven. Fr. Samuel J. Ponniah
  160. Visakha Tillekeratne – Independent Activist
  161. Yamini Ravindran – Attorney-at-Law and Campaigns Director, Minormatters

Organisations

  1. Adayaalam Centre for Policy Research (ACPR)
  2. Affected Women’s Forum (AWF)
  3. Alliance for Minorities
  4. Batticaloa District Civil Society Activists Union
  5. Centre for Human Rights and Development (CHRD)
  6. Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA)
  7. Civil and Political Rights Amayam, Batticaloa
  8. Committee for Protecting Rights of Prisoners
  9. Dabindu Collective Sri Lanka
  10. Families of the Disappeared (FoD)
  11. Forum for a Plural Democracy
  12. Forum for Affected Families, Mannar
  13. Human Elevation Organisation (HEO)
  14. Human Rights Office (HRO), Kandy
  15. Institute of Social Development (ISD)
  16. International Centre for Ethnic Studies (ICES)
  17. Law and Society Trust (LST)
  18. Lawyer’s Forum for the People
  19. Mannar Social and Economical Development Organisation (MSEDO)
  20. Mannar Women’s Development Federation (MWDF)
  21. Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR)
  22. Movement for Plantation Peoples’ Land Rights (MPPLR)
  23. Muslim Women’s Development Trust (MWDT)
  24. National Fisheries Solidarity Movement (NAFSO)
  25. NGO National Action Front (NNAF)
  26. People for Equality and Relief in Lanka (PEARL)
  27. People’s Action For Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL)
  28. People’s Alliance for Right to Land (PARL)
  29. People’s Collective for Climate Justice, Batticaloa
  30. Plantation Rural Education and Development Organisation (PREDO)
  31. Praja Abhilasha Network
  32. Revolutionary Existence for human Development (RED)
  33. Right to Life Human Rights Centre (R2L)
  34. Rural Development Foundation
  35. Samadana/m
  36. Savistri National Women’s Movement
  37. Social Institute for Development of Plantation Sector (SIDPS)
  38. Sri Lanka Young Journalists’ Association
  39. Suriya Women’s Development Centre
  40. Tamil Civil Society Forum (TCSF)
  41. Upcountry Civil Society Collective (UCSC)
  42. Viluthu
  43. Voices Movement
  44. Women and Media Collective (WMC)
  45. Women for Justice and Peace in Sri Lanka
  46. Women’s Action Network (WAN)
  47. Women’s Organisation Working on Disability