Human rights campaigner at grossroots level
PROTECT: Last few months saw for the 1st time in many years a
series of successful offensives, by the Armed Forces, in defense, of
unprovoked attacks on the position of Armed Forces by terrorists in
North and East. Infact these, except, taking of Jaffna is the only,
success after triumphs, at Vadamarachchi in 1986.
As pointed out this has exploded the myth of invincibility of the
terrorist, the so called "L.T.T.E." There is reliable information that
diplomatic community based in Colombo, may be inclined to believe that
civilian administration has lost control of the Army, and it is the job
of Army's own.
JANA GHOSHA: Showing protest
Naturally as a fall out there had been casualties on many fronts both
in Colombo and in North and East. Both nationally and internationally,
much concern had been raised on extra judicial killings, notably 17 aid
workers of a French NGO "Action Contra L' faim" in Muttur, at Soncholai
and the latest 11 Muslims in Potuvil. There is a statement by the
retiring S.L.M.M. head Ulf Hendrikson on the 17 workers killed.
There has been an increase in refugees internally and those crossing
to India and of abduction and abuses of human rights.
Humanitarian issues like a lack of basic wants of food, shelter and
clothing and medicine for the displaced have come to the fore.
The T.N.A. members have gone to India unsuccessfully to meet the
Indian PM. However, three non L.T.T.E. parties have been invited by
India. A significant shift in India policy, thanks to efforts of keen
India observers here.
It is the right of our sovereign National Government to take whatever
measures to protect itself and its citizens from whatever quarter, from
its enemies internal or external. Terrorists or otherwise, Colombo and
the citizen in rest of the country, had been spared bombs, claymore
mines, suicide bombs terrorist mayhem in view of counter measures taken
by Police, Armed Forces and intelligence units. Here, few may be in
convenienced for the safety of multitude.
The most significant event last month was the President's appearance
and address at 61st session of the UN General Assembly in New York. Here
he put on focus the question of terrorism the plague of the world and
said Sri Lanka will support global moves to combat terrorism.
He adverted to his own record as a human rights campaigner at
grassroot level throughout his political life.
It will be interesting to recount the many human rights activities at
grassroot level of Mahinda Rajapaksa.
He organised "Jana Ghosha" where several political parties including
the Sri Lanka Freedom Party decided to show their disapproval of the
policies and actions of then Government on a range of issues.
It was decided to harmonize their protests, nationwide by means of a
15 minute noisy cacophony of protests (Jana Ghosha) ringing of bells,
tooting of motor vehicle horns, beating of drums, banging of saucepans,
so that there might resound throughout the nation, a deafening din of
This resulted in the Supreme Court case under Fundamental Rights -
Article 14 (1) (a) of the Constitution Amarathunga vs Sirimal and Others
1 SLR 1993 Page 264.
"The notes show that on these journeys he (Richard Zoysa) spent time
with SLFP politicians like Mahinda Rajapaksa. He had even assisted in
the filling of Amnesty International forms in the verandah of the
Rajapaksa residence in that area. Perhaps he carried these forms with
him for in respect of the description of persons in his jottings he
notes, "see forms". Un Quote
Batty Weerakoon, Attorney-at-Law handled the case of Richard De Zoysa.
"The silence of foreign funded NGOs on the slaughter that was taking
place in Sri Lanka was criticised in a report published by SLFP's forum
(15 April 1988). It claimed that a strange dumbness had struck Colombo
based civil rights movements and human rights organisations (i.e., the
foreign funded NGO sector).
While hundreds of youths were being arbitrarily arrested, tortured
and killed in the South, these organizations continued to remain silent.
It quoted Mahinda Rajapaksa, an SLFP politician, attorney-at-law and a
former MP for Beliatte, as saying that these movements and organisations
were silent perhaps because they supported 'the Indian Accord'.
Rajapaksa claimed that these organisations were obstructing protests
against the violation of human rights possibly because 'they do not wish
to embarrass the Government in any way'. But despite this, Rajapaksa and
others concerned managed to communicate what was going on in the country
to the world community by contacting organisations like Amnesty
"Recolonisation" Susantha Goonatilake sage Publications India Pvt
Ltd. 2006, page 211.
"Mothers' Front (Southern)
The political violence in the South was also to give birth to another
formation of women: mothers and wives of the many thousands of persons
missing or disappeared, illegally detained or extra judicially executed
began coming together in the southern districts and were organised into
the Mothers' Front of the South under the auspices of two SLFP Members
of Parliament." (Page 19 A Hidden History Kumudini Samuel)
"Letter of invitation dated February 6, 1991, titled "National
Convention and Public Rally 19 February 1991", signed by Mangala
Samaraweera, MP and Coordinator, Mothers' Front. The Mothers' Front was
jointly co-ordinated by two SLFP MPs, Mangala Samaraweera and Mahinda
The Front was created in response to the many demands received, in
particular, by these two MPs from the Southern constituencies of Matara
and Hambantota, from mothers and family members of the disappeared.
Although co-ordinated by the MPs, it was not an official party
organisation (Page 97 A Hidden History Kemudini Samuel.)
There is the celebrated case Mahinda Rajapaksa vs Kudahetti and
Others 2 SLR 1992 Page 223.
In September 1990 the petitioner (Mahinda Rajapaksa) went to
Katunayake Airport to board an aircraft bound for Geneva where the 31st
session of the working group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances
was being held from '10-14 September.
At the airport 1st respondent disclosing the fact that he was an
Assistant Superintendent of Police informed the petitioner that he
wished to examine his baggage for fabricated documents which were likely
to promote feelings of hatred or contempt to the Government, an offence
under Regulation 33 of the Emergency (Miscellaneous Provisions and
The petitioner refused to permit the search and wanted to contact a
lawyer. The first respondent did not object to this. The petitioner then
spoke on the telephone to Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike, the Leader of the
Opposition and thereafter threw the bags at the first respondent and
asked him to examine them.
The first respondent examined the bags and recovered 533 documents
containing information about missing persons and 19 pages of photographs
and issued a receipt for them which was countersigned by the petitioner.
The petitioner however refused to make a statement to the police.
The petitioner's complaint was that he was invited to address the
'Working Group' but that was not able to present his case fully before
that group. The invitation to him was as Secretary of the Committee of
Parliamentarians for Fundamental and Human Rights (which is an informal
group of opposition members of Parliament and not a committee of the
House) to submit information for consideration in the preparation of the
Working Group's annual report.