Colombo Telegraph

Families Of The Disappeared Intimidated By Extremist Monks And Rajapaksa Supporters

Indicating the rising threats against civil society activities in Sri Lanka that is egged on by the Rajapaksa-regime, families whose loved ones had disappeared during the war in 2009 were intimidated in Colombo today by a mob led by Buddhist extremist monks and supporters of the Rajapaksa-regime that stormed into a meeting they attended.

The meeting was held this afternoon at the Center for Society and Religion in Maradana that is located within the premises of a Catholic church. It was disrupted by the mob that suddenly stormed into the meeting that was attended by families of disappeared including children, civil society activists and US and European diplomats.

The mob had demanded the organizers to stop the meeting, claiming it is illegal and had held the crowd inside the CSR hall for over two hours. The families had been intimidated by the angry protesters who had been threatening and photographing them and shouting slogans against NGOs that are funded by Washington.

Police arrived at the scene following a complaint lodged by the organizers of the meeting at the Maradana Police station.

According to an article published in the New York Times on the incident, Acting Deputy Head of the Mission at the US Embassy, Micheal Honigstein had been present at the event.

“I have seen firsthand the intimidation you face as families of the disappeared,. . .I honor your courage to come forward and share your stories with us,” Honigstein has been quoted telling the families.

Meanwhile, the US embassy in Sri Lanka releasing a statement on the incident today has charged that the initial reaction of the Police to the incident appeared to be in support of the mob efforts to shut down the meeting.

“The strong impression was that the protesters were seeking to intimidate and silence those in attendance,” the statement read.

Furthermore it has strongly called upon the Government of Sri Lanka to strengthen the rule of law and ensure the most basic human rights including freedom of speech and freedom of assembly are upheld. The US Embassy in Sri Lanka had also urged the government to ensure all possible steps are taken to guarantee the safety of families who had traveled from the North to attend this meeting.

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