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Oct-23-2012 01:06printcomments

Sri Lanka: Public Threats and Harassment Against Human Rights Defender Dr Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu

William Gomes asks Sri Lanka's President to aid longtime human rights activist.

Dr Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu
Dr Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu

(SALEM) - Posters showed up in Colombo around the 15th of this month containing threats toward Human Rights Defender, Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu.

It isn't the first time. These latest threats are only the most recent incidents targetting Dr. Saravanamuttu; part of a long pattern of harassment not unlike what other humanitarian activists have faced over the constant abuse of Tamils in the post war era.

In March 2012, a smear campaign by state-affiliated newspapers, TV and radio stations and news websites was launched against this human rights advocate and three others.

The beef is that Dr Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu is one of those who attended the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva to speak out over human rights abuses committed in Sri Lanka.

The government of Sri Lanka has had the Tamil minority population of this island nation in its sites and under duress since the country achieved liberation from British colonial occupation in 1948.

During the civil war countless people were killed and in the end more than 160,000 Tamils ceased to exist; either dead or hidden away in secret prison camps.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa,
Office of the President
Republic Square,
Colombo 01,
Sri Lanka

Your Excellency,

I am William Nicholas Gomes, Human Rights Ambassador for

I came to know about the situation from .

On 15 October 2012, posters containing a threat to human rights defender Dr Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu appeared in Colombo and surrounding areas. Dr Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu is the executive director of the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA), a non-governmental organisation which carries out research and advocacy for public policy that promotes non-violent conflict resolution and strengthens democratic governance.

On the morning of 15 October 2012, posters appeared in the environs of Colombo containing a message in Sinhala. Translated, the message reads: “Let us save the pro-people Divineguma Act, which builds the lives of fifteen lakhs [1,500,000] of low income families, from the Paikiasothy gang that aids and abets the separation of the country.” The poster refers to a bill currently in the process of being enacted. Dr Saravanamuttu and CPA have filed petitions to challenge the bill, as they are concerned that in a number of areas its provisions could be unconstitutional. As a result, the bill is currently pending before the Supreme Court.

On the same morning the posters appeared, the CPA offices in Colombo were visited by military personnel. The military personnel reportedly offered a vague pretext of having been informed the CPA’s address was linked to the Elections Department, which was being investigated by these military persons. In a statement, the CPA has said they are as yet unsure whether the two events are linked, or why the military would be involved in such inquiries at all.

These threats are the latest incident in a long pattern of harassment and threats directed at Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu. In March 2012, a smear campaign by state-affiliated newspapers, TV and radio stations and news websites was launched against him and three other human rights defenders when they attended the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, where they spoke of human rights abuses committed in Sri Lanka. These media outlets repeatedly accused the human rights defenders of treason, affiliation with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and of receiving money from abroad to work against the interests of the country. This smear campaign included one event during a public rally on 23 March 2012 where a member of the national government, Minister of Public Relations Mr Meryn Silva, threatened the human rights defenders with physical harm if they set foot in Sri Lanka, reportedly saying: “I will publicly break the limbs of people like Sunanda Deshapriya, Nimalka Fernando and Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu who lobbied against their own country”.

I am seriously concerned about this latest incident against Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu and the CPA, especially in the light of the official or state-sanctioned nature of some of these threats. The CPA has identified an increasingly menacing climate of open hostility and stigmatisation on the part of the government toward critical voices in civil society.

I urge the authorities in Sri Lanka to:

1. Carry out an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation into the threat against human rights defender Dr Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, with a view to publishing the results and bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards;

2. Take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of the abovementioned human rights defender and his family, as well as that of all members of the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA);

3. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Sri Lanka are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions, including harassment and intimidation by state officials and state-affiliated media.

Yours Sincerely,
William Nicholas Gomes
Human Rights Ambassador for

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______________________________ Human Rights Ambassador William Nicholas Gomes is a Bangladeshi journalist, human rights activist and author was born on 25 December, 1985 in Dhaka. As an investigative journalist he wrote widely for leading European and Asian media outlets.

He is also active in advocating for free and independent media and journalists’ rights, and is part of the free media movement, Global Independent Media Center – an activist media network for the creation of radical, accurate, and passionate telling of the truth. He worked for Italian news agency from year 2009 to 2011, on that time he was accredited as a free lance journalist by the press information department of Bangladesh. During this time he has reported a notable numbers of reports for the news agency which were translated into Chinese and Italian and quoted by notable number of new outlets all over the world.He, ideologically, identifies himself deeply attached with anarchism. His political views are often characterized as “leftist” or “left-wing,” and he has described himself as an individualist anarchist.



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