2 July, 2022


Challenges And Attacks Against Civil Society In Sri Lanka

By Sudarshana Gunawardana

Sudarshana Gunawardana

Sudarshana Gunawardana

This is a joint statement by IMADR and FORUM-ASIA together with civil society organisations in Sri Lanka. The current situation in Sri Lanka contradicts the ICCPR. Incidences of torture, disappearances, extra-judicial killings and custodial deaths have neither been effectively investigated no compensated. Human rights defenders and civil society organisations working on such issues are often targeted with impunity and subjected to intimidation, harassment and reprisals.

For example on 4th August 2014, a group of hard-line Buddhist monks and others, claiming to represent families of missing soldiers, forcibly entered prominent church premises in Colombo that hosts the Centre for Society and Religion and disrupted a meeting. They abused and threatened organisers and human rights defenders present at the meeting including family members of the disappeared from Mannar in Northern Sri Lanka. Despite receiving complaints from two civil society representatives, the police have failed to take any action against those responsible. Human rights defenders working on disappearances continue to be harassed by various pro-Government forces and labelled as “traitors” by different actors including the State-controlled media and pro-Government agitators.

Another example is that of three prominent human rights defenders, Ms. Balendran Jeyakumari, Mr. Ruki Fernando and Father Praveen Mahesan who were arbitrary arrested this year under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). Ms. Jeyakumari is still in detention without charges. Mr. Fernando, who is present here, is banned from speaking to anyone, locally or internationally, on anything related to his case.

Further restricting civil society space, in his 1st July 2014 letter the Director/Registrar of the National Secretariat for Non Governmental Organisations has clearly threatened the fundamental freedoms of human rights defenders. Copies of this letter were circulated to this committee. According to it, activities deemed “unauthorised” now face the consequence of being “dismantled”. It is feared that the letter targets NGOs that cooperate with the UN or urge the government to uphold democratic principles, respect the rule of law, investigate into disappearances, and inquire into alleged crimes committed during the war and into continuing violations.

We have seen large scales disappearances and extra-judicial killings and the discoveries of mass graves in Matale, Mannar and the Eastern Province. Defenders who work on such issues are repeatedly subjected to fear and intimidation. The situation in the country requires your immediate attention, including in particular the persistent and systematic attacks and reprisals against human rights defenders.[1]

We lastly note that GOSL has taken no step to address the previous 14 concluding observations issued by this Committee in 2003 and hope for better results this time.

Thank you for your attention.

Further issues of concern

  1. Act No. 56 of 2007: While appreciating the adoption of the Act it is noted that it is yet to give effect to certain rights in the ICCPR including the right to life.
  2. The adoption of the 18th amendment to the Constitution: The amendment has allowed to hold indefinite presidential term, eliminate the Constitutional Council, increase the Executive’s control over the appointments of officials to the Election Commission, the Public Service Commission, the National Police Commission, the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, the Permanent Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery and Corruption, the Finance Commission, and the Delimitation Commission. It also enables the President to appoint the Chief Justice and the Judges of the Supreme Court, the President and the Judges of the Court of Appeal, the Members of the Judicial Service Commission, other than the Chairman, the Attorney-General, the Auditor-General, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration, and the Secretary-General of Parliament.
  3. Discrimination of non-nationals: Arbitrary detention and deportation Pakistani asylum seekers which have violated the principle of Non-refoulement.
  4. Rise of Buddhist religious extremism and hate speech: Increasing number of attacks against Muslims and Christians, while the Government has failed to prosecute the extreme Buddhist group, Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), a responsible group for the religious violence. The Government has also failed to give effect to it’ own Act No 56 of 2007.
  5. Prolonged detention under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.
  6. Continuing surveillance of civil society organisation: The Ministry of Defence exercises authority to NGOs, since the NGO secretariat is placed under this Ministry.
  7. Continuing attacks against peaceful demonstrations, meetings and workshops organized by civil society: No investigation has been carried out against perpetrators both in the North and South.
  8. Continuing persecution of family members of the disappeared in the North and East: It has been restricting their advocacy and exposures, since the authorities such as the Terrorism Investigation Department and Criminal Investigation Department has been threatening them.
  9. Removal of the Chief Justice by unlawful impeachment process.

*Sudarshana Gunawardana Made the statement above at the Human Rights Committee NGO Briefing, 7th October 2014

[1] Several cases of attacks and reprisals against human rights defenders can be found mentioned in: The Situation of Human Rights Defenders in Sri Lanka – Human Rights Committee Briefing Paper jointly submitted by ISHR and FORUM-ASIA: http://www.forum-asia.org/uploads/Briefing%20Papers/2014/October/Sri%20Lanka%20Briefing%20Paper%20Human%20Rights%20Committee.pdf

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Latest comments

  • 0

    This writer has a typical mindset of a Neo-con paid NGO shark.

    • 2

      Dear mechanic,
      You are trying to recondition an old Dodge which has passed it’s ‘best before’ date. They do not manufacture parts for these vehicles as they are too expensive to maintain. The one you are trying to revive out of the handful of them left, is failing on all cylinders. So my good friend, scrap the old metal and be happy.

      • 1

        Human rights in Sri Lanka is a predictable racket for both the violators and defenders of HR who do not think beyond their noses…

        Human Rights defenders should start talking about ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL RIGHTS – not just Civil and Political rights!

        The fact is the Rajapaksa Family is involved in ECONOMIC TERRORISM against the people of Sri Lanka – particularly, the poor and vulnerable and elderly.

        For years the Jantha Estate Development Board (JEDB), did not pay estate workers their EPF and ETF and is NOW planning to pay EPF and ETF dues and gratuity payments to workers amounting to Rs.1,141 million which have remained outstanding since 2001. Around 85 workers from two estates will receive their incentive payments, bonuses and gratuity dues because Mahinda Jarapassa want to win an illegal presidential election in 2015. The biggest enemy of the people is the FINANCIAL TERRORIST Ajith Nivard Cabral the corrupt and criminal accountant who runs the Central Bank.

        The Financial terrorist and economic hit man Nivard Cabraal is putting out fake inflation rates in order to drive down interest rates and hurt people who live off their savings in order to borrow more funds at LOW RATES from local banks to fund Jarapassa’s election bid.

        Today there is a strange phenomenon of NO credit and jobless growth because of the lack of economic and political policy stability. Which means the REAL ECONOMY is NOT growing and Cabraal is merely SPINNING GROWTH FIGURES. This is because Cabraal wants to BORROW more from already debt ridden local banks and endanger the whole banking sector to fund Mahinda Jarapassa’s re-election bid and for hand outs to Sinhala Modayas and plantation workers too!

    • 3


      “This writer has a typical mindset of a Neo-con paid NGO shark.”

      Could you explain what a “typical mindset of a Neo-con paid NGO shark” means to you.

  • 2

    Thank You for your succint list Mr Gunawardana.

    Keep up the good work but don’t expect anything to change soon.

    As long as the same shits run the show, the show will go on. Abductions, disappearances, discrimination…you name it, they’ll do it, and invent more. Fresh transgressions continue come to light everyday in our thrice-blessed land.

    But have hope, the day of reckoning will come and the bastards who perpetrate these crimes – against OUR OWN PEOPLE – will be identified, and the collective curses of our citizens will haunt them and their progeny for years to come.

    • 0

      Fortunately, most people in Sri Lanka believe MR had eradicated the thirty year curse on 2009 May 18th.

      • 5


        “Fortunately, most people in Sri Lanka believe MR had eradicated the thirty year curse on 2009 May 18th.”

        Unfortunately most people believe state terrorism has to be eradicated and MR & GR should be held accountable for human rights violations, including war crimes and crimes against humanity.

        By the way Hindians played a major role to wipe out LTTE. MR was only obeying orders.

        • 1

          Dear Native,

          Scores of Hindians and Pakistanis dead in Kashmir.

          Suicide Bombs kill 30 plus in Yemen.

          US and Aussie Hornets kill hundreds in Kabali .

          Thousands of poor Africans die with Ebola.

          This just today’s news from Algezera..

          But the real abuses and rights violations are in post Nanthikadal Srilanka.

          And here they are.

          Mrs Gobi is stopped at the Airport on her way to Geneva.

          Thevarasa a Tamil Political Activist is severely assaulted in a Tamil Area, But sits on his hospital bed with a few band aids, to give a press interview and take part in a photo shoot.

          A disenfranchised Catholic priest is stopped holding a war widow meet in Colombo.by irate inhabitants in a Muslim suburb.

          Lionel Richie is entertaining Colombo Elite at LKR 20,000 a head.

          Dilma Fernando opens his Dream Resort in the heart of the South in Cape Weligama.

          And he is nor Buddhist ,Neither a Rajapaksa or BBS supporter.

          Sinhala Buddhists will be lucky to get a gig there cleaning Toilets let alone enjoying the luxury of posturepaedic beds and exotic Cocktails.like our Colombo Elite and the Anglicans do at the Cinnamon Grand.

          Despite all this Mr Swire holds high level talks to change regime with none other than the GTF and its Chief ex LTTE friend Rev Emmanuel.

          And our Opposition Leader who seems poised for the plum job of CC, is London to help Mr Swire and his Conservative Party Govt.

  • 0

    NOGs’ thrive in countries which are engulfed in insurgency, poverty and ethnic hatred.

    Srilanka has eliminated most of them post Nanthikadal

    Elite in Colombo now fork out USD 180, that is LKR 20,000 to listen to an ageing Afro American Pop singer.

    There won’t be any Sinhala Buddhist at this show even if they got the Dough..Because they can’t understand the lingo.

    So it is all English speaking Elite , Anglicans and Velllalas cuddling their missusses, girl friends and even boy friends and rocking ” All night Long”…

    Even Rajapaksa and the new rich won’t be dragged in to this because LKR 20 G is nearly 3 Litres of Red Label for them and still with enough change for a Buriyani Feed and a non stop CD from our own Chandimal and the Second Connection.

    NGOS in the meantime are with the Dalits to train them on how to fight for Human Rights.

    Plus a bit of guerrilla warfare tactics too..

    Can’t understand how this Govt allow the Elite to indulge in all these luxuries and go after only the poor Dalits to deny them Human Rights?…

  • 1

    Human rights activist attacked in the north.https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/human-rights-defender-in-vavuniya-assaulted/
    The repression goes on.

  • 1

    We are proud of you Gunawardana, keep up the good work. Do not be disheartened by some critical comments by the sycophants of this government

  • 0

    He is not living in this world, by and large having bad picture, that is different place of our plant.

    If time permitted he could please visit Iraq, Libya, Syria, Egypt, Yemen, Somali, Afgantain and Pakistan, that is location solid grounds for to do your research and inversgation of Human Rights and violation as Eye witness.

    You have selected wrong location by the choice of Sri Lanka is misdirected by negative approach of non-violation time being that any Rights Sri Lankan soil.

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