A mob, lead by a Buddhist monk has sabotaged a seminar organised by the Samabima newspaper, Sudarshana Gunawardana, Attorney-at-Law and Executive Director of Rights Now told Colombo Telegraph.
“Samabima” (http://www.samabima.com/) is a monthly newspaper in Sinhalese, focusing on issues related to democracy and human rights, with a particular focus on minority rights. It is published by Rights Now Collective for Democracy, a NGO based in Colombo, Sri Lanka (http://www.rightsnow.net/) that also focuses on similar issues. Rights Now also publishes a one page supplement in the weekly Sinhalese paper “Ravaya”. “Samabima” is one of the very few regular publications in Sinhalese language that addresses issues related to power sharing, human rights situation of Tamils and more broadly in Sri Lanka and also international involvements in relation to human rights in Sri Lanka.
The “Samabima” paper had been organizing a series of public seminars on issues related to democracy and human rights at district level. The 11th such discussion was scheduled for 14th July (Sunday) at the Terel hall in Ampara, in the Eastern province.
Most of the organizing and coordination work was led by Mr. Gnaweera Dissanayake, a “Samabima” reader and well known social activist in Ampara. Mr. Dissanayake is a member of the ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party and his younger brother, Mr. Wimalaweera Dissanayake is the Minister of Education and Transport in the Eastern Provincial Council.
Amongst the speakers were Mr. Gnaweera Dissanayake, Mr. Sudarshana Gunawardana, Attorney-at-Law and Executive Director of Rights Now Collective for Democracy and Ms. Manori Kalugampitiya, Editor of the “Samabima” newspaper.
The details of the seminar, including the date, time and place and that it was organized by the “Samabima” newspaper, was advertised throughout Ampara through posters and also through the weekend national newspaper “Ravaya”.
Details of the incident:
On 11th July, the owner of Terel hall (venue of the seminar) had informed Mr. Gnaweera Dissanayake that he place will not be made available, as the Police as had inquired about the program and he feared renting out the hall for this program may adversely affect his business interests, even though he had no personal opposition to renting out the hall. Mr. Dissanayake had pointed out that there was no need to get Police permission to rent out a hall for a public seminar and had called the Ampara Police to explain about the seminar.
Complicity of the government:
According to local people, the group that obstructed the seminar are supporters of the Mayor of Ampara, Mr. Indika Nalin Jayawickrama, who is from the government.
Even though intelligence officers of the Police were seen inside the hall and Police officers were outside the hall, they did nothing to control the situation and provide security to the organizers, speakers and participants and ensure the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression.
On the same day, the pro-government state TV station, Independent Television Network (ITN), gave publicity to this incident in it’s 7pm news broadcast, highlighting that this was a seminar held to promote terrorist agenda of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and that it was organized by pro-LTTE organization, Centre for Policy Alternatives, headed by Dr. Paikiasothi Saravanamuttu.
Due to clear complicity of the local Police, the organizers did not lodge any complaints with the local Police. However, they are considering legal action.
Media reports and further threats:
Links to the ITN news broadcast accusing the seminar of responding to the agenda of the LTTE and other media reports on websites and report by “Samabima” are available at it’s website, http://www.samabima.com/?p=6916 (in Sinhalese). Amongst the negative comments posed towards organizers is one that says “people such as these that try to divide the country should not be allowed to live”. The original notice (invitation) in Sinhalese about the event is also on the website.
« Commonwealth Lawyers Call For CHOGM Boycott