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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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HRCSL: No prisoners were used in 09 May attacks on protesters



AG, CJ asked to take action against lawyer for triggering violence

The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) has declared that a false allegation by President of the Committee for Protecting Rights of Prisoners (CPRP) Attorney-at-Law Senaka Perera that some prisoners were used to attack anti-government protesters outside Temple Trees and at Galle Face on 09 May triggered violence in many parts of the country.

The HRCSL also faulted Sudesh Nadimal Silva also of the same organisation for propagating unsubstantiated allegations.

Justice (ret.) Rohini Marasinghe, in her capacity as the Chairperson of the HRCSL, said that both Senaka Perera and Sudesh Nandimal had failed to substantiate their allegations made at the Galle Face protest site on 10 May.

The HRCSL, in a statement issued yesterday (29) quoted Justice Marasinghe as having said: “False propaganda as well as misinformation of the alleged use of Prisoners to have attacked the innocent protesters is both a diabolical lie and a deceitful action.”

The HRCSL has recommended that Attorney General Sanjaya Rajaratnam conduct a further investigations into allegations made by Senaka Perera and take necessary action

The HRCSL has requested Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya, PC, to take note of the detrimental statements made by Attorney-at-Law Senaka Perera and take due action.

The HRCSL consists of Ven. Kalupahana Piyarathana Thera, Dr. M.H. Nimal Karunasiri, Dr. Vijitha Nanayakkara and Ms. Anusuya Shanmuganathan.

The HRCSL dealt with the issue in a statement titled ‘The HRCSL condemns the false media broadcast made by the President of the Committee for Protecting Rights of Prisoners’.

The HRCSL issued the statement after the conclusion of a special investigation by an appointed committee of investigators (Col).

CoI consisted of Sanjeewa Weerawickrama, Attorney -at- Law, Miss. lmasha Senadeera, Attorney-at-Law and Dr. Dilshani Bogollagama.

Referring to allegation that prisoners had been used to attack protesters at protest sites at Galle Face and Temple Trees, the HRCSL said that the CoI determined that no prisoners had been used in perpetrating any attack on the peaceful protesters.

The HRCSL asserted that the unsubstantiated allegations caused an irreversible damage to the country.

The HRCSL said that a group of prisoners had been seriously assaulted and subjected to mental and physical torture by an unidentified group on 09 May.

The HRCSL stated: “The unprecedented ruthless nature of the attack on prisoners and officials resulted in injuries and hospitalization of many inmates.” Since the incidents, eight prisoners hadn’t been accounted for so far, it has said.

The prisoners had been made available to the private sector enterprises in terms of an agreement endorsed by the Cabinet of Ministers in Oct 2021. On the day of the incidents, a group of prisoners had been taken to a designated work place and were on their way back when gangs intercepted them.

“Attorney at Law Mr. Senaka Perera, the convener of the conference identified himself as a Human Rights Activist. The COI provided the CPRP president Mr. Senaka Perera with the opportunity to justify his statements that caused an outrage in both Sri Lanka and the World at large. For the purpose of submission of any evidence, in either oral statements or picture documentation in support of his statements, Mr. Perera was extended a justifiable time period. However, he expressly affirmed before the Committee that at the time of the statement or even thereafter he did not have any tangible evidence in favor of his expressed views in regard to the alleged incident. Mr. Sudesh Nadimal Silva was also summoned to give evidence before the COl. The Committee explaining the paramount importance of the maintenance of professional ethics provided Mr. Sudesh Nadimal Silva with the opportunity to provide a justifiable explanation for his expressed allegations. However, he was unable to provide any acceptable evidence in support of his statements.

The COI observed that the press conference which was chaired by M. Senaka Perera had dispensed totally false statements without any sustantive evidence.

“Following the above-mentioned facts, the COI has identified the grave consequences of the negligent attitude of making unfounded statements. Inciting agitation in the general public against state departments and personnel has inadvertently led to disruptions to the law and order of the Country.

“The COI further observed that these inaccurate declarations conveyed by the above speakers directly contributed to the series of violent activities and right violations, reported island wide. The combined result of the atrocities that occurred within a mere 48 hours resulted in the loss of 12 human lives with several hundred injured casualties. In addition, intentional damage and arson to both public and private properties surmount to the loss of billions of rupees.

“After a thorough and diligent inquiry, the COI has arrived at the following conclusions. The highly irresponsible misconduct by the Attorney-of-Law Senaka Perera, with his speculative allegations with no substantiated evidence, resulted in disastrous consequences.

“Hence, it is of paramount importance that members of professional bodies need to be guided by the code of conduct or the professional ethics as set out by the respective professional bodies for the due conduct of the members. These conditions of misconduct from individuals of representation and influence should be held accountable by the respective professional bodies.

It is the view of the COI that national media institutions must consciously adhere to responsible reporting and promote journalism with integrity, especially during this volatile period of both political and economic instability. This tantamount to avoidance of direct reporting of incidence without due assessment of this veracity and credibility. The Committee further advocates promotion of investigative journalist practices with the objective of strengthening the democratic fabric of the Country.”

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IMF end-of-mission report highlights ‘corruption vulnerabilities’ in Sri Lanka



By Sanath Nanayakkare

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) personnel that remained in Sri Lanka for ten days from 20-30 June to study the exact reasons for the current economic crisis in the country and design a comprehensive economic programme have stressed the need to reduce ‘corruption vulnerabilities’ in Sri Lanka.

The need for tackling corruption has been listed right below the IMF’s concerns about containing rising levels of inflation and addressing severe balance of payments (BOP) pressures of the country.

Anne-Marie Gulde-Wolf, Deputy Director of the IMF’s Asia and Pacific Department, participated in policy discussions. At the end of the mission, Messrs. Breuer and Nozaki issued the following statement:

“Sri Lanka is going through a severe economic crisis.

The economy is expected to contract significantly in 2022, while inflation is high and rising. The critically low-level of foreign reserves has hampered the import of essential goods. During the in-person visit, the team witnessed some of the hardships currently faced by the Sri Lankan people, especially the poor and vulnerable who are affected disproportionately by the crisis. We reaffirm our commitment to support Sri Lanka at this difficult time in line with the IMF’s policies.

“The authorities’ monetary, fiscal policy and other actions since early April were important first steps to address the crisis. The team had constructive and productive discussions with the Sri Lankan authorities on economic policies and reforms to be supported by an IMF Extended Fund Facility (EFF) arrangement. The staff team and the authorities made significant progress on defining a macroeconomic and structural policy package. The discussions will continue virtually with a view to reaching a staff-level agreement on the EFF arrangement in the near term. Because public debt is assessed as unsustainable, Executive Board approval would require adequate financing assurances from Sri Lanka’s creditors that debt sustainability will be restored.

“The authorities have made considerable progress in formulating their economic reform programme and we are looking forward to continuing the dialogue with them.”

The IMF team held meetings with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Prime Minister and Finance Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Central Bank of Sri Lanka Governor Dr. P. Nandalal Weerasinghe, Secretary to the Treasury K M Mahinda Siriwardana, and other senior government and CBSL officials. It also met with MPs, representatives from the private sector, civil society organisations and development partners.

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JVP Leader talks of final solution with people drawn to the streets



By Saman Indrajith

JVP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake says that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has accomplished the mission of saving the Rajapaksas.

Speaking at a JVP rally in Matara on Wednesday, Dissanayake said people had thought Wickremesinghe was a man accepted by the international community and he could resolve the crisis in next to no time.

“Nothing of the sort has happened. The crisis has worsened. In the meantime, the Rajapaksas have been enabled to come out from their hiding places. Wickremesinghe brought Mahinda Rajapaksa from Trincomalee to Colombo and then to Parliament. Wickremesinghe saved Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who was contemplating his resignation. Namal Rajapaksa was not to be seen at all. There were public protests demanding the confiscation of property belonging to Namal Rajapaksa, but Wickremesinghe after becoming the Prime Minister enabled Namal to come out of hiding and go to parliament. Today, Namal is seen with the Energy Minister at meetings to discuss solutions for the oil shortage. When the crisis was brewing Yoshitha Rajapaksa left the country for Australia. Lankans in Australia started searching for him in hotels there. After Wickremesinghe became the prime minister, Yoshitha came back. Basil Rajapaksa, whose name is now mentioned in a case report as Mr Ten Percent, too, is still active in politics. Wickremesinghe has achieved his mission of saving the Rajapaksas. Did he do anything to save the people from the crisis? No, he only served as the spokesman of the crisis,” Dissanayake said.

People were dying in queues and they suffered that plight without any of their party affiliations, Dissanayake. “Today, all are in queues. There are UNP, SLFP, JVP and Communist Party members in the queues and languish together. It shows that we all have to come out together against the rulers responsible for our plight. We must sink our political differences and come together to get rid of the corrupt rulers. We must take to the streets, but before that we must have a clear understanding of how we are going to take back the stolen wealth of the people. Simple change of power would not ensure their recovery. We must fight with a clear vision. We soon will announce a day and call upon people to suspend whatever they are doing and come to the street to join the final push to send them home,” the JVP leader said.

NPP Matara District Ex Co Member Saroja Savithri Paulraj and former Kalutara District JVP MP Dr Nalinda Jayatissa also addressed the meeting which was the third in a series of the party’s countrywide rallies started from Anuradhapura last Sunday.


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