“We also note the speed with which the Government and State actors acted on the arrest of Mr. Salley based on a misquoted interview. This is in a context of an increasing number of instances of hate speech and violence in Sri Lanka, with evidence publicly available identifying the perpetrators. Unfortunately, such incidents have not been independently investigated and perpetrators brought to account. Sadly, this incident is yet another reminder that the Government has resorted to strong-arm tactics to silence and harass critics, while turning a blind eye when actual incidents of violence occur. It is of serious concern as to the reasons for this unlawful arrest and the detention of Mr. Salley, and it sends a chilling reminder to all critics of the Government of reprisals.” issuing a statement say the members of Sri Lankan civil society.
“We the undersigned, vehemently condemn the arrest and detention of Former Deputy Mayor and General Secretary of the National Unity Alliance (NUA), Azath Salley, by a team of officers from the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and the Terrorism Investigation Department (TID), on Thursday, 2 May 2013 morning, and call for his immediate release in the absence of any demonstrable evidence.
We publish below the statement in full;
We the undersigned, vehemently condemn the arrest and detention of Former Deputy Mayor and General Secretary of the National Unity Alliance (NUA), Azath Salley, by a team of officers from the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and the Terrorism Investigation Department (TID), on Thursday, 2 May 2013 morning, and call for his immediate release in the absence of any demonstrable evidence.
Mr. Salley was arrested under the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and he has been placed under detention for further interrogation by the CID for 3 months under Section 2(1)(h) of the PTA. Section 2(1)(h) states that a person who has committed an offence under the PTA “….by words either spoken or intended to be read or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise causes or intends to cause commission of acts of violence or religious, racial or communal disharmony or feelings of ill-will or hostility between different communities or racial or religious groups…”
The unlawful arrest and detention of Mr. Salley is in a context where there have been increasing attacks and threats against minorities, a growing spate of incidents of religious intolerance, and clamping down of critics of the Government and dissent on the whole. Mr. Salley has been a vocal critic of the extremist group Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) and the anti–Muslim activities of the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU), and has been actively involved in efforts to initiate legal action against both groups. He has also promoted minorities to unite against the racist rhetoric and actions of such groups. In addition, Mr. Salley has been publicly critical of the indirect support given to these elements by the Secretary to the Ministry of Defence, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa.
On 24 April 2013, in an interview to the Tamil Nadu bi-weekly magazine “Junior Vikatan”, Mr. Salley is alleged to have said that “the Muslims too should launch an armed struggle against the state in the same manner in which Tamils conducted a campaign earlier…(and) that such a struggle would commence once necessary arms are procured.” Mr. Salley has later written to the magazine stating that he was misquoted. The magazine published a correction on 4 May 2013.
Mr. Salley has been on a fast since his arrest on 2 May in protest against his unjust arrest, and demanding his release. Since his arrest, he has been moved from the 4th Floor of the CID to the National Hospital as he had collapsed due to lack of food, water and medication. There are concerns his condition can deteriorate if not urgently addressed, as he is a diabetic and in need of medication. He was initially refused visitors, including visits from his immediate family and lawyers, and was placed under heavy police guard. On 5 May, regardless of medical concerns, Mr. Salley had been moved back to the 4th Floor of the CID.
Mr. Salley’s had to be carried to the meeting room on the 4th Floor to meet with his lawyer yesterday (6). On seeing the deterioration in his condition, his lawyer had insisted that authorities re-hospitalize him immediately.
We may not agree with all of Mr. Salley’s political positions, however we are deeply concerned with the treatment meted towards him which seems to be a result of his position against hate propaganda and opposition to extremist groups. Whilst we recognize the responsibility of the State to investigate hate speech and other actions aimed at inciting communal disharmony, we wish to highlight the lack of fair and due process on the part of the State in the unlawful arrest and detention of Mr. Salley. Given the context and the charges, it would seem that Mr. Salley’s charges are politically motivated.
We also note the speed with which the Government and State actors acted on the arrest of Mr. Salley based on a misquoted interview. This is in a context of an increasing number of instances of hate speech and violence in Sri Lanka, with evidence publicly available identifying the perpetrators. Unfortunately, such incidents have not been independently investigated and perpetrators brought to account. Sadly, this incident is yet another reminder that the Government has resorted to strong-arm tactics to silence and harass critics, while turning a blind eye when actual incidents of violence occur. It is of serious concern as to the reasons for this unlawful arrest and the detention of Mr. Salley, and it sends a chilling reminder to all critics of the Government of reprisals.
We, the undersigned call for his immediate release.
1. Rt. Rev. Kumara Illangasinghe – Bishop Emeritus of Kurunagala, Anglican Church
2. Rev. Dr. Jayasiri Peiris
3. Rev. Fr. Jeyabalan Croos
4. Rev. Fr. Reid Shelton Fernando
5. Rev. Fr. Samuel J. Ponniah
6. Rev. Fr. Sarath Iddamalgoda
7. Rev. Fr. Sherard Jayawardane
8. Rev. Fr. Terrence Fernando
9. Rev. Jason J. Selvaraja – Senior Pastor, Assembly of God – Chavakachcheri
10. Rev. Sr. Deepa Fernando
11. Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA)
12. Interfaith Cooperation Forum
13. Women’s Action Network
14. A. Theva Rajan QSM – President, New Zealand Tamil Senior Citizens Association 15. Aaranya Rajasingam 16. Ahilan Kadirgamar 17. Aingkaran Kugathasan 18. Ainslie Joseph – Convenor, Christian Alliance for Social Action (CASA) 19. Amal de Chickera 20. Ameena Hussein 21. Ameer M Faaiz – Attorney-at-law 22. Anberiya Haniffa 23. Anushya Coomaraswamy 24. B. Gowthaman – Attorney-at-law 25. Balasingham Skanthakumar 26. Bhavani Fonseka 27. Bruce Van Voorhis 28. Chamindra Chathurinee 29. Chandra Jayaratne – Former Chairman, Ceylon Chamber of Commerce 30. Chandraguptha Thenuwara – Artist 31. Deanne Uyangoda 32. Deshini Liyanaarachchi33. Dinidu de Alwis 34. Dilshy Banu 35. Dinesh D. Dodamgoda 36. Dr. Anita Nesiah 37. Dr. Lionel Bopage 38. Dr. P. Setunga 39. Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu 40. Emil van der Poorten – Retiree & Community Activist 41. Faiz-ur Rahman 42. Farzana Haniffa 43. Farzath Faiz 44. Fawwazah Muhammad 45. Mohamed Raffai Mohamed Fouzi 46. Hans Billimoria 47. Hameed Abdul Karim 48. Imran Mohamed Ali 49. Infiyaz Mohamed Ali 50. Iromi Perera 51. Jayanthi Gunewardena 52. Jehan Perera 53. Jensila Majeed 54. Juwairiya Mohideen 55. K.J. Brito Fernando – President, Families of the Disappeared 56. K.S. Ratnavale 57. Kumaravadivel Guruparan 58. Kumari Kumaragamage 59. Kumi Samuel 60. Kusal Perera 61. Lal Wijenayake – Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP) 62. Lasantha Rahunuge – Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association 63. Latheef Farook 64. Mahaluxumy Kurushanthan 65. Manjula Gajanayake 66. Marisa de Silva 67. Mano Ganesan – Leader, Democratic People’s Front (DPF) 68. Mathuri Thamilmaran 69. Megara Tegal 70. Melani Manel Perera – Journalist 71. Melisha Yapa 72. Mirak Raheem 73. Mohamed Hisham 74. Mohamed Shammas 75. Muhammad Nasir 76. Nazli Mohamed Ali 77. Nicola Perera 78. Nigel V. Nugawela 79. Nirmanusan Balasundaram – Independent Journalist/Human Rights Advocate 80. Nishan de Mel – Economist 81. Niyanthini Kadirgamar – Researcher 82. Nooranie Muthaliph 83. P.N. Singham 84. Paba Deshapriya 85. Prabu Deepan 86. Priya Thangarajah 87. Prof. Jayantha Seneviratne – University of Kelaniya 88. Prof. Kumar David 89. R. Cheran 90. R.M.B. Senanayake 91. Rajani Chandra 92. Rohan Salgadoe 93. Rosanna Flamer-Caldera 94. Ruki Fernando – Human Rights Activist 95. Sabra Zahid 96. Sampath Samarakoon 97. Sanjaya Senanayake 98. Sanoon Mohideen 99. Sarala Emmanuel 100. Selvi Sachithanandam – Chairperson, Poornam Foundation 101. Selvy Thiruchandran 102. Shamala Kumar – University of Peradeniya 103. Shanthi Sachithanandam 104. Shehan de Alwis 105. Shehan Shakoor 106. Shreen Saroor 107. Siritunga Jayasuriya – United Socialist Party 108. Srinath Perera – Attorney-at-law 109. Sumathy Sivamohan 110. Sunanda Deshapriya 111. Sunil Jayasekera – Free Media Movement 112. Sunil Wijesiriwardena 113. Suren D. Perera – Activist & Attorney-at-law 114. Thiruni Kelegama 115. Udaya Kalupathirana – INFORM Human Rights Documentation Centre 116. Uvais Mohamed Ali 117. Visaka Dharmadasa.118.DBS Jeyaraj-Journalist
Read the full statement here