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Mirihana mayhem: NGO wants torture allegations probed



Sri Lanka Collective Against Torture (SLCAT) has said that every allegation of torture of persons, arrested at Mirihana, should be investigated and those responsible held accountable. Affected persons should be provided services for recovery and compensation, SLCAT said in a statement issued yesterday.

The following is the text of the statement: “People had gathered at Mirihana to exercise their basic civic right to highlight the devastating impact of the economic crisis which has led to countrywide power outages and a fuel shortage which has impacted essential services and the supplies of food and medicines.

During the last several weeks, at least three deaths of people, who stood in line waiting for LP gas deliveries or fuel supplies were recorded, and scuffles broke out as people clamoured to access essential supplies.

Emerging video footage of the protest shows, what appears to be, excessive and unprovoked use of force by the police against peacefully protesting persons, bystanders and journalists. For instance, there is footage of police following/chasing persons, who appear to be residents of the area in which the protest was being held and beating them. It has been reported that the use of rubber bullets and tear gas has caused injuries and had an adverse health impact on protestors and bystanders, including children, who accompanied their parents. The government justifies the use of force by pointing to the destruction of public property, but video footage indicates police disregarded acts of violence when they were taking place, although they were present at the site, such as a bus being set on fire. This gives credence to allegations that persons who were not protestors infiltrated the protests and caused violence to which law enforcement turned a blind eye.

By the morning of 1st April 2022, several arrested persons alleged they were beaten in police custody due to which they had sustained injuries. Some detained persons were noted having visible fresh injuries, including baton inflicted welts across their backs and experienced difficulty walking. Despite this, for more than 12 hours they were not provided medical care, which could constitute torture and appears to be part of the punishment inflicted on them (protestors) for participating in the protest. At the time of issuing this statement, close to half the number of persons arrested were hospitalised and could not be physically produced before court.

We reiterate that torture is forbidden under international human rights law, as well as Sri Lankan law, including the Constitution. It is also the right of detained persons to have access to a lawyer, which is in part to protect them from torture or inhuman, degrading treatment or punishment while in custody. Despite this, detained persons were prevented from consulting with lawyers, even nearly 24 hours after they were arrested, which violates their due process rights.

As part of its strategy to legitimize its crackdown on dissent, the government branded the protestors “extremists”, and thereafter a government minister referred to the protests as acts of terrorism, which illustrates a clear attempt to stifle people’s right to expression, peaceful assembly and association. These acts of the government have to be viewed in the context of the deterioration of the rule of law, which is exacerbated by the declaration of a state of emergency by the government on 1 April 2022 that provides wide powers to the executive to curtail rights. These developments raise grave concerns about the potential crackdown on freedom of expression and assembly and dissent, particularly in light of the history of the abuse of emergency powers by the executive in Sri Lanka. The denial by the police they arrested social activist Anuruddha Bandara on 1 April 2022, who was located hours later on 2 April 2022 by the Human Rights Commission at the very police station which denied he was arrested, is a case in point. The police have stated he has been arrested under Section 120 of the Penal Code, a vague and overbroad provision on ‘causing disaffection’ that has been used by successive governments to curtail freedom of expression and stifle dissent.

When officers of the state justify their actions on the basis of national security or protecting public order, they have the onus of proving the precise nature of the threat and security risk. The security and well-being of citizens, in particular their right to challenge their elected representatives and hold them accountable is part of ensuring the security of the country.

When this right is threatened, it undermines social cohesion and harmony. We reiterate that the right to dissent and peacefully protest to hold the government accountable and demand their rights is the inherent right of every citizen. This right must be respected by the government.

The SLCAT called for:

1. Every allegation of torture should be investigated and those responsible held accountable. Affected persons should be provided services for recovery and compensation.

2. Persons arrested and detained against whom there is no evidence of any involvement in unlawful activity should be discharged.

3. The government to respect the right of citizens to engage in peaceful protest and the right of the media.

4. The police to abide by legal standards governing the use of force, i.e. legality, necessity and proportionality.

5. The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka to conduct investigations into allegations of torture and issue at least its initial findings in an expeditious manner.

6. The government to publicly apologise for the treatment of protestors and by-standers at the incident of 31st March 2022 at Jubilee Post junction.

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Renew firearm license for 2024 before 31st December 2023 – Ministry of Defence




The Ministry of Defence has announced that the renewal of firearm license of individuals/ institutions for the year 2024 will be carried out from 01 October 2023 to 31 December 2023 and the required details can be downloaded from the Defence Ministry’s website

Firearm license renewal for 2024 will not be carried out after 31 December 2023. It is also informed that possession of a firearm without a valid license is a punishable offense under provisions of Section 22 of the Firearms Ordinance.

Registration renewal of Private Security Firms for the year 2024/2025 will be carried out from 01.10.2023 to 31.12.2023. Any renewals made after the deadline will be subjected to a fine or legal action.

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“Unite to secure a developed Sri Lanka by 2048” – President




President Ranil Wickremesinghe in his Milad-Un-Nabi message urged all Muslim brethren in Sri Lanka, to unite at this juncture in working towards strengthening the path to secure a developed Sri Lanka by 2048.

“Let us together overcome the challenges facing our nation, while adhering to the principles espoused by the Holy Prophet Muhammad, in ensuring a brighter future for all” he said.

The full text of the President’s message :

“My greetings to the Muslim community in Sri Lanka and around the world, observing Milad Un Nabi, being the auspicious occasion commemorating the birth anniversary of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, founder of Islam.

He is celebrated as the final messenger of Allah, known for profound teachings of love and peace that encompass humanity. His journey to spread the message of Islam in the challenging societal context of that time, was marked by significant trials. Even in the face of adversity, the Holy Prophet’s unwavering patience and equanimous strength served as powerful attributes. He was victorious in attaining his aspirations, through boundless sacrifices for faith and humanity.

As we celebrate Prophet Muhammad’s birthday today, it is timely to resolve to uphold the values that were the hallmark of his life, which include mutual understanding, brotherhood, assistance to one another and fairness. Our commitment to fostering social harmony is the most meritorious tribute which could be paid to his legacy.

I urge all Muslim brethren in Sri Lanka, to unite at this juncture in working towards strengthening the path, to secure a developed Sri Lanka by 2048. Let us together overcome the challenges facing our nation, while adhering to the principles espoused by the Holy Prophet Muhammad, in ensuring a brighter future for all.

I wish all those of the Islamic faith, a joyous Eid Milad-Un-Nabi, filled with love, peace and prosperity!”

Ranil Wickremesinghe
Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka

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National Security Oversight Comm. Chief denied US visa



By Shamindra Ferdinando

Chairman of the Parliamentary Oversight Committee on National Security, Rear Admiral (retd.) Sarath Weerasekera has told Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena that the US should not deny a visa to an MP nominated by the Sri Lankan Parliament to join an official delegation unless he/she posed a threat to US interests.

In a letter dated 25 Sept., 2023, the former Public Security Minister has informed Speaker Abeywardena the issuance of visas was the prerogative of the US mission, but the issue of the US Embassy insisting that he be replaced with a member of a minority community must be taken up.

Of the Chairpersons of 17 Oversight Committees chosen for a 10-day study tour of the US organised by the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and USAID, later next month, only Weerasekera has been denied a visa.

Declaring that he had B1 (business) and B2 US visa (tourism) or combination of the two, Rear Adm. Weerasekera said that he had no special interest or reason to join the delegation but it was wrong for the US Embassy to deny him a visa.

The MP has said that he will seek an explanation from Foreign Secretary Aruni Wijewardena in this regard. “In my capacity as Chairman of the Oversight Committee on National Security, I intend to call a meeting with Secretary Defence and Armed Forces chiefs to discuss this matter,” MP Weerasekera said.

Weerasekera retired in late 2006 after having served the Navy with an unblemished record for well over three decades.

Responding to another query, the former Minister said that the Parliament had been asked by the US Embassy to name another member of his committee, representing a minority community for the programme.

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