21 September, 2020

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Situation Report: Sri Lanka’s CHOGM Repressive Tactics To Stifle Dissent

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The government of Sri lanka, hosts of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting that will take place tomorrow has engaged in an extraordinary string of repressive tactics to stifle dissent and the freedom of expression since the summit events commenced on Sunday. After months of making a show of measures to address human rights issues, the events of this past week has shown the Rajapaksa government to be engaging in the worst types of repression, violence and subversion on democratic dissent and dissenters.

C 4Here are the highlights of CHOGM week for citizens of Sri Lanka attempting to express dissent at Government policies and rights abuses and journalists in town to cover the summit.

* Sunday 10 November

Parliamentarians from Australia and New Zealand have passports siezed shortly before addressing a press briefing at the TNA office in Colombo. Immigration authorities that interrogated the MPs for three hours said they were violating the conditions of their tourist visas. The MPs were to make a blistering statement about the human rights situation in the north following a fact finding tour.

*Sunday 10 November

CHOGM accredited Britain’s ITV crew attempting to fly to Jaffna told they need authorisation first. Clearance finally obtained. Flight mysteriously cancelled due to bad weather. Crew takes the road. Held back at Omanthai for three hours before being permitted to proceed. For months the army has been claiming there is no longer a check point in Omanthai.

* Monday 11 November

Britain’s Channel 4 crew including No Fire Zone Director Callum Macrae arrive in Colombo. Large numbers of demonstrators mob the crew as they exit the airport’s arrivals terminal. The crew’s flight information had been kept deliberately under wraps. It was not clear how the demonstrators knew which flight the crew was travelling on.

* Monday 11 November

Protestors mob Hilton Residencies where the Channel 4 Journalists are staying. Channel 4 reporters tweet they are being followed in and out of their hotel with cars and three wheelers. They tweet the registration numbers of the vehicles.

Civil Aviation Authority issues directive to all private airlines operarating flights to Jaffna. Flights are to be grounded until 18 November, after CHOGM ends.

* Tuesday 12 November

BBC reporter manhandled by Presidential Security Division at the Commonwealth Business Forum at Cinnamon Grand. Channel 4’s Jonathan Miller accosts the President on his way out of th  hotel. President invites crew to tea. An investigation has commenced on the security breach that allowed Miller to get so close.

* Tuesday 12 November

Posters come up around Colombo denouncing a Human Rights Festival at the UNP headquarters as being a conspiracy against the motherland.

* Wednesday 13 November

Families of the disappeared travelling to Colombo from the north to attend the Human Rights Festival turned back by military.

Channel 4 crew takes train to Kilinochchi. Train track is blocked by mobs protesting  against Channel 4 in Anuradhapura. Organised by Government Ministers and provincial councillors in the area. Unclear how mob knew Channel 4 was on the train. Crew forced back to Colombo in a van by police saying they could not guarantee their safety.

Demonstrators lay siege to Sirikotha as Human Rights Festival gets under way. Leading the protestors is a prominent UPFA western provincial councillor. Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe’s vehicle attacked as he attempts to enter Sirikotha to attend festival. Protestors block the gates of Sirikotha. Riot police called in.

* Thursday 14 November

Channel 4 returns to Colombo after a night in Dambulla. Police complaint filed by  driver of their van at Slave Island says Macrae did not pay him Rs. 30,000 for the hire. Channel 4 responds that they were forced into the van by the police.

Buses carrying passengers to the North pelted with stones at Puttlam.

Demonstrators including the Bodu Bala Sena storm Sirikotha to disrupt human rights festival. Police stand by. Bodu Bala Sena monks clash with UNP supporters at Sirikotha. Several UNP MPs attacked by demonstrators says the party.

Court order delivered to Sirikotha banning protests for the next two days. Human Rights Festival cancelled. Participants prepare to leave for  outstations.

Terrorist Investigations Division enters Sirikotha and arrests Tamil youth for alleged links to LTTE. More officers enter demanding to see identification of people from the north. Officers insist people are handed over ro the TID of their own accord. Refuse to assure their release. Lawyers still fighting for release of arrested youth at Mirihana Police Station. Bus leaves from Sirikotha carrying people from the festival back to the north. Several lawyers accompany the buses back.

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Latest comments

  • 1
    0

    These tactics by the Govt only consilidates the opposition’s claim that SL is sans media freedom and repression of dissent.
    If the billions of rupees spent on hosting the CHOGM was to erase that view then, it has been a abjact failure.
    Oh! what a waste

    • 1
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      If the wish of the local “Royal Family” in subjecting the already bankrupt country to such enormous expenditure was merely for much of the family to be seen in a photo-op with Prince Charles, then the object is far from laudable. To recall Mahinda Rajapakse was a fire-breathing socialist only in the 1980s against all wasteful expenditure in the poor country and to compare his criminal extravagant spending the people’s resources once he is in power is appalling.

      And this oft-repeated claim of President Rajapakse “we are a sovereign country and have our own set of laws to investigate the army’s alleged excesses” is an infantile argument. The Cambodian mass-murderer Pol Pot too could have used the same argument in his defence in the killing of the Khmer Rouge millions. But the world will not give in to such asinine arguments and the Cambodian morons deserved the long sentences they got. As the BBC’s Yalda Hakim described a few minutes ago “CHOGM has been a massive PR disaster to Rajapakses Sri Lanka”

      As another commentator wondered in these columns “will CHOGM turn out to be the Rajapakses Mavilaru?”

      Dr. B.I. Passe

  • 1
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    Despotism let loose freely upon the Tamils for so long is now made to visit even foreign dignitaries with no restraint. The opposition leader the country’s alternate Head of Government is not spared the malevolent hand of roughnecks.

    We should be beholden to Colombo Telegraph for this bold, authentic and unexpurgated account. Though terse, it is edifying enough for the moment.The Sri Lankan powers that be are emboldened by the nonchalance with which Commonwealth countries agreed at Perth to extend its stamp of approval. The Commonwealth looked at all the violations of 2009 and the two benighted years till Perth with purblind eyes and are now being treated by the host with the same fare.

    Even a saint will do the same when all 53 countries extend their endorsement. Why couldn’t the powers that be have done all that they have done to the Tamils and to the Sinhalese who opposed them, if they do what they do now with the full glare of the eyes of the world? Is the nation wrong in the charge of tyranny it has leveled? Was the international community ever unjustified in calling the regime a dictatorship?

    • 1
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      When the Non-Aligned summit happened in Colombo in 1976, people and children lined the roads for hours with massive crowds on the street and a carnival atmosphere. The kids held little flags of their favorite visiting world leaders. It was a people’s party. I remember standing with the kids and crowds on Green Path for hours watching, waiting to catch a glimpse of the various world leaders – Fidel Casto and Jomo Kenyata in particular – at Green Path… and we were rewarded with waves from them as they drove by!
      There was a carnival atmosphere among the crowds- with vendors selling icy chocs and pea nuts to the kids.
      Today, despite all the 2013 CHOGM hot air about Civil Society and Youth Fora, the roads on which the world leaders will pass are all cordoned off and empty except of police and military. CHOGM is an elitist party for Dictators who FEAR THE PEOPLE, CIVIL SOCIETY, AND YOUTH of the country.
      Today this morning on Alexander Road where there are only military and police officers and a deathly silence. There are no crowds on the streets and children to peer at Prince Charles. Even the usually noisy crows as silent. Something is ROTTEN IN THE COMMONWEALTH OF NATIONS which is better called the Common Poverty of Nations, today in Colombo November 15, 2013.

    • 1
      0

      When the Non-Aligned summit happened in Colombo in 1976, people and children lined the roads for hours with massive crowds on the street and a carnival atmosphere. The kids held little flags of their favorite visiting world leaders. It was a people’s party. I remember standing with the kids and crowds on Green Path for hours watching, waiting to catch a glimpse of the various world leaders – Fidel Casto and Jomo Kenyata in particular – at Green Path… and we were rewarded with waves from them as they drove by!
      There was a carnival atmosphere among the crowds- with vendors selling icy chocs and pea nuts to the kids.
      Today, despite all the 2013 CHOGM hot air about Civil Society and Youth Fora, the roads on which the world leaders will pass are all cordoned off and empty except of police and military. CHOGM is an elitist party for Dictators who FEAR THE PEOPLE, CIVIL SOCIETY, AND YOUTH of the country.
      Today this morning on Alexander Road where there are only military and police officers and a deathly silence. There are no crowds or children to peer and wave at Prince Charles as he sails by. Even the usually noisy crows as silent. Something is ROTTEN IN THE COMMONWEALTH OF NATIONS which is better called the Common Poverty of Nations, today in Colombo November 15, 2013.

  • 1
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    30,000 hire from Anuradhapura is a real rip off. 210 km at 150 Rs per Km? The Police who hired the vehicle should pay. Foreigners are fools?

    • 1
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      This complaint against Callam McRae by the Van driver at Slave Island Police Station is a Govt job to blackmail and intimidate the Channel-4 team. It was GoSL who could not provide safe passage to McRae and colleagues for a pre-paid rail trip. These passengers were harassed and stopped from proceeding – suspected to be on instructions from higher-ups in the Defence set-up in Colombo. Probably to provide them safety the Anuradhapura Police had sent them in the vehicle to Colombo.
      Govt should meet the cost. How cheap and irresponsible can we get. Channel-4 is surely not going to take this lying down.

      Hooker

      • 1
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        The dirty games that the Rajapakse regime plays is evident for all to see in this instance of the van hire..
        Surprising they did not put Chanel 4 journalists in a white van and send them to heaven!

    • 0
      1

      It would be 420km rather than 210 as the driver has to get back to Anuradhapura! The cost would be 71.43Rs per kilometers. That is not too bad considering the overnight stay at Dambulla!

    • 0
      1

      Hey dude we are not living in the 50s.This is 2013.A three wheeler charge Rs 40 per KM.A small kangaroo taxi charge Rs60.A large Kangaroo taxi charge Rs110.This was a luxury van.Anyway don’t worry about the bill(polla).The defeated Tamil terrorists have agreed to foot the bill.

      • 1
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        I have gone from Colombo to Jaffna and back for 35,000 rs , in a luxury air conditioned van.

    • 1
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      why didnt’ the police take them to Jaffana by car ?

      • 1
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        Wonder why Gota did not send a White Van to Pick the Channel 4 Crew to transport them from A’pura. I presume it would have been too much and the Punk, would have funked.

  • 1
    0

    This is like giving a stick and getting hit by the same!! The CHOGM is going to be disaster as far as MR is concerned!! He has shown to the entire world (without any dobt)what sort of a thug he is!!!

  • 0
    1

    The western media – clearly motivated by Tamil activists in those countries – are on a witch a hunt of double standards.

    For instance, when it was very clear that the invasion of Iraq was based on non-existent evidence and caused more that 500,00 deaths, there was no crew rushing in there to ‘investigate’ nor was there any real recrimination on the British government for blindly following the US lead. The former ICRC chief himself – as published in the CT- stated that arms were stored by the LTTE in the hospital at the last stages but this is obviously not newsy enough for Chanel 4.

    As long as the money is being collected by the rump of the LTTE sans their hit man on the ground, they will buy and cajole the western media to seek out any morsel of sensationalism they can find.

    The UNP in turn, are fishing in muddy waters. Ironically, they will not apologise for July ’83 that happen under their negligent watch and for the countless deaths of youth during the two uprisings in the south.

  • 0
    1

    Hey! Anyone heard of this guy called Adolph Hitler and his storm troopers? Where have they been?

  • 1
    0

    Brilliant! The rogue regime of Sri Lanka shows the world that accusations of stifling the press, harassment of the media, and trying to silence them, are all true. What more proof than the incidents of the last few days?

  • 1
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    That’s how we operate.The next two years will be a new era for the CHOGM.I am sure that all heads of state will learn and follow our king!

  • 1
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    Obviously, they should have been allowed to proceed to North. Police should have arrested the group who were obstructing the rail track. Getting more bad names to the country. GR creating more problems to SL, and never think thats the end. He should be sacked from the job.

  • 1
    0

    Good things happen at times and this is good time for the Nation and people. The world leaders had first hand information about what President tells and What actually happens in the real world. As President Rajapakse said, there is a system in this country. Who stops the system to do its job. He proves himself by his behavior that he is the problem, not the system. It is he who orders to break the law, kill the people and not the system. We have a President who is a thug and underworld criminal. His world is completely different from the rest of the world. If that is true, the international community should isolate him and his government and put him on the international court. I am sure all Sri lankans other than those allied with him will be happy.

  • 1
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    At the end of the day this poor soul (Driver)is the ultimate loser , he just lost 30k . technically , police should settle the bill as they were the ones (persuaded) escorted them to the van . wonder what would happen if opposition did the same thing ?

  • 1
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    above should read as ,

    wonder what would happen if opposition mob blocked a commuter train like this ?

  • 1
    0

    The 21st century century version of ‘Parangiya Kotte Giya’ tactics, which assumes the victims incorrigible stupids!

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

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