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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 disapproval.

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 International.

"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 Rajapaksa.

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 Powers) Regulations.

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.


Gamin Gamata - Presidential Community & Welfare Service
Sri Lanka

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