The National Peace Council has expressed deep concern over the increasing and continuous surveillance of civil society activities by the Rajapaksa-regime using military and law enforcement authorities in the post-war period.
In a media statement issued yesterday, the NPC has noted the escalating surveillance operations – initially widely prevalent in the North and East but now spread to the entire country – includes every aspect of civilian life including weddings, puberty ceremonies, memorial services in addition to seminars and workshops organised by civil society organisations in the North.
Underpinning their accusations and concerns, the NPC has pointed out that during the past month, its activities implemented under the inter-religious reconciliation programme have been subjected to surveillance by security forces on three occasions.
Among the three incidents where the NPC activities were disturbed by military and police surveillance were:
1) An inter-religious dialog in Kandy
– the event had been held inside a private hall of a reputed civil society organization. Despite informing the relevant authorities of the event, intelligence personnel had entered the hall in civvies and had recorded the discussion.
2) An event in Galle
-Despite inviting the local Police to attend the event,another Police team had arrived at the premises to investigate the programme
3) A youth Amity camp in Addalaichenai in the East
– Although the local police and local government authorities had been informed of the event, uniformed military personnel with weapons had arrived and questioned the organisers of the programme on three separate occasions over a two day period.
The NPC has pointed out that two of the incidents occurring outside the former war zones of the North and East indicates surveillance is now being carried out in the entire country.
In its statement, the NPC has also pointed out that this type of activity has resulted in the polarization of social relationships and a perpetuation of such conditions of insecurity will contribute to the creation of a lasting social mistrust between communities and jeopardize reconciliation. It has also stressed on the fact that such spying on civilian activities will also lead to the emergence of forces that lack faith in peaceful methods to rectify their grievances as happened in the 70s.
“The government needs to recognize that the surveillance of civil society activities by members of security forces strikes fear and resentment in the minds of the people – particularly those of the ethnic and religious minorities that would in turn lead to self-censorship and reluctance to voice their grievances,” the statement notes adding if not, the concerns will remain stifled and would continue to fester within the hearts of the people who feel victimized and deprived of justice.
Writing furthermore, the NPC has pointed out the breakdown of affection towards the government as a result of the public being intimidated due to spying and surveillance, will turn the reconciliation process harder to achieve.