Two days ahead of the Commonwealth Summit where Sri Lanka will assume the chair of an organisation that holds as its core values democracy, human rights and good governance, the military has stopped busloads of families of the disappeared from travelling to Colombo from the Northern Province.
Families from Mannar, Vavuniya, Mullaitivu, Kilinochchi and Jaffna were travelling to the capital Colombo to attend the Samagi Human Rights Festival, also known as the alternate Peoples Forum to stress Commonwealth Values.
Military personnel stopped the buses and turned the families back to their home districts at Madawachchiya and Madhu. Families from Mannar decided to hold a demonstration near Madhu Church while families from further north staged a demonstration at Vavuniya. However, the military and police have now dispersed those protests and sent the families home.
The Government previously stopped protesters from entering the capital during this year’s UN Human Rights Council session in March, when families of the disappeared attempted to reach Colombo in order to hand over a petition to the UN Headquarters in Colombo.
Sri Lanka is cracking down hard on anti-Government demonstrations and movements, including the Human Rights Festival organised by the Samagi Movement, ahead of CHOGM in the full glare of the world’s media who have descended on the island to cover the summit.
The Government on Monday grounded all private airlines flying to Jaffna until November 18. This morning a Sri Lanka Railways train carrying No Fire Zone Director Callum Macrae and the Channel 4 crew was besieged by demonstrators who stormed the railway track at Anuradhapura. The Train has been unable to proceed beyond that point so far. With bus loads turned back from entering the capital Colombo and media personnel harassed at the Omanthai Check Point – which the Government claimed months ago had been dismantled – Sri Lanka has managed to completely curtail the freedom of movement within its borders in the run up to CHOGM.
At a press briefing yesterday however, Commonwealth Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma said he was confident Sri Lanka would register progress on the human rights front and that the people of Sri Lanka would soon feel the change.