Academics and NGOs have condemned the call by Sydney University Associate Professor Daniella Celermajer to ‘go soft on the Government of Sri Lanka’ after which they bowed down to the demands of Ministry of Defence and uninvited representatives of several human rights organizations to a human rights conference in Bangkok.
According to a report that appeared on Sydney Morning Herald today, a group of lecturers from the Sydney University itself, in a letter has criticized Celermajer’s comments and the course of action taken to please the GoSL pointing out it has ‘threatened to bring the University of Sydney’s commitment to and connection with human rights into disrepute’.
“We therefore consider it important to write to dissociate ourselves from the event and the way in which it has been conceived and managed,” the academics have stated in the letter to which includes a Sydney University Associate Professor s Jake Lynch and Brami Jegan who are also conveners of a Sri Lankan human rights project at the University.
Lynch, Jegan and other academics who are signatories to the letter has noted that the conference is at serious risk of providing the appearance of human rights cover to a brutal regime that continues to perpetrate gross violations and is going to great lengths to silence critical voices both within Sri Lanka and in the international community.
Earlier last week, Professor Celermajer told the organizers of the Enhancing Human Rights and Security in Asia-Pacific’ to be mindful of the ‘heightened sensitivity and fragility’ after the Defence Ministry of Sri Lanka threatened to withdraw its Police and Military personnel from participating in the event if representatives from certain NGOs are to participate.
“The stark reality is that if the Sri Lankan authorities feel themselves under attack, they will leave. They have made this clear to us,” Prof. Celermajer said following the threat made by the Sri Lankan Defence Ministry. As a result, the University gave into their demands and un-invited representatives of Right to Life and Rights Now organizations.
Meanwhile, several other organizations including Amnesty International criticized the decision of the Sydney University. “The best course of action would have been the reissuing the invitation to the individuals you have excluded from the conference and reassured all participants without exception that they may speak freely,” Amnesty International pointed out.
Following the un-invitation, another Sri Lankan NGO- Janasansadaya withdrew from participating in the conference stating, “Our organization has been informed by the Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice of dis-inviting of two NGO participants from Sri Lanka due to objections from the Ministry of Defence.”