By R. K. RADHAKRISHNAN –
The day after the vote against Sri Lanka at the United Nations Human Rights Council on its ‘dismal progress’ on post-conflict issues, Colombo saw more protests on Friday. One organisation distributed pamphlets calling for boycott of U.S. products as it sponsored the resolution.
Elsewhere, Minister Mervyn Silva told demonstrators he would break the limbs of journalists who went abroad and made statements against the country. “I’m the one who chased one of those journalists… out of this country. I will break the limbs of all these journalists, in public if they dare to set foot in the country,” Daily Mirror online quoted the Minister as saying.
Meanwhile, three Sri Lankan Human Rights activists who presented ground realities in Geneva that differed vastly from the government’s account faced ridicule and name-calling back home. The three — Sunila Abeysekara, Nimalka Fernando and Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu — in a joint statement said “it is indeed regrettable that at a time in the history of our country when we have the opportunity to transform our society, to move from a post-war to a post-conflict phase, and to enjoy the support of the international community to rebuild a just, humane and prosperous Sri Lanka in which all its citizens can live together with peace and dignity, the government and its media have seen it necessary to launch into an unprecedented and utterly personalised attack against the three of us. There is no attempt to challenge us substantively on any point. None of the comments attributed to us, were actually ever made by any one of us; there are many who were present at the side events where we have spoken who can testify to that.”
The Sri Lankan Free Media Movement also stood up for the three. In a statement posted on human rights websites on March 16, it said the three “who are the current targets of the state media… have played an enormous role, with commitment, in the securing of people’s rights within Sri Lanka. Rupavahini, the state television channel, ITN and the Lake House group of newspapers, all of which are under direct state control, are presently using their photographs and engaging in a violent campaign against them, based on falsehoods. The Free Media Movement expresses its concern that this contemptible campaign which is portraying these human rights activists as LTTE supporters could result in an actual threat to their lives.”
The Tamil National Alliance welcomed the passage of the resolution, “Promoting Reconciliation and Accountability in Sri Lanka”, at the Human Rights Council.
“The TNA strongly believes that this resolution is a first step in the pursuit of justice and accountability and sincerely thanks all countries, organisations and institutions that demonstrated a firm commitment to the achievement of a future for the Tamil community in Sri Lanka that is marked by equality, dignity, justice and self-respect,” it said.