JC Weliamuna, one of Sri Lanka’s most prominent Human Rights lawyers and activists, was awarded the Citizen’s Peace Award (2012), at a ceremony at the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute of International Relations & Strategic Studies, this evening. The prize is awarded by the National Peace Council of Sri Lanka.
In a personal tribute paid at the occasion, the founder of Sarvodaya Movement, Dr. A. T. Ariyaratne hailed Weliamuna as one of the few people who had the convictions and courage to stand up for the rights of the citizen, even against “democratically elected terrorists”. He said that it is only through such efforts that true peace can be made a reality in Mother Lanka.
In an acceptance speech, Weliamuna said he never expected to be recognized in this way, and was only following his conscience. He recognized his mentor, now retired senior human rights lawyer, R. K. W. Goonesekere who had been a shining example to him. He recalled how his parents taught him good values held him in good stead, though they never interfered with his choices. He thanked his wife and children for their support in good times and bad. He also made special mention of his colleagues of the legal fraternity who stood by him when he needed them.
Weliamuna, an outstanding human rights lawyer and activist, is also the chairman of Transparency International, Sri Lanka. He is widely respected as a legal professional of great conviction and commitment to fundamental rights and good governance, who rose through determination and hard work to the position of respect that he enjoys today.
A few years ago, after he had raised some critical issues of human rights, grenades were thrown at his house one night. This angered the legal fraternity so much that the very next day, thousands of lawyers took to the streets in an unprecedented move. Among them, were several lawyers close to the Rajapaksa regime who put aside political affiliation to protest an attack on a respected fellow professional.
In the midst of the outrage, the government pledged to the legal profession to investigate the matter, but never apprehended the culprits.
The Citizen’s Peace Award is given yearly by the National Peace Council of Sri Lanka to honour an outstanding individual for exceptional demonstrated courage and consistency, working in hostile conditions, to promote peace in a spirit of sacrifice.
The prize is made possible by funds received from the National Peace Council of Sri Lanka and the Sakai City Government’s Peace Contribution Award.
The ceremony was well attended by members of the diplomatic corps, members of parliament, respected lawyers, civil society leaders, members of the clergy and the public.