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.
* 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.