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Sri Lanka: State sponsored brutality against opposition

Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka (JDS) unreservedly condemns the attack on journalists and political activists at Colombo International Airport on the 07th of December as the latest state sponsored violence against dissenting voices in Sri Lanka.

While the police looked on passively, a mob assaulted the MTV / Sirarsa Katunayaka correspondent, Prema Lal, and Lankaenews journalist, Shantha Wijesuriya, as they went to cover the arrival of the Nava Sama Samaja Party (NSSP) General Secretary, Dr. Vickramabahu Karunaratne, from the United Kingdom. Members of the NSSP, rights activists and trade unionists were at the airport to welcome Dr. Karunaratne, who had publically expressed his opposition to the government and the war against the Tamil Tigers.

Although Dr.Karunaratne’s views expressed in the UK were almost completely censored at home in the Sri Lankan media, the Rajapaksa government used the state media and government ministers to incite racial hatred against him and opposition MP, Dr. Jayalath Jayawardena. Dr. Jayawardena was assaulted in the parliament by senior government ministers, while supporters of a deputy minister launched a premeditated attack at the airport. The government has already made it clear that it is going to prosecute Dr. Karunaratne for what it calls 'bringing disrepute to the nation'. It is probable that the rule of law will not be applied to those employed for violence by a government minister. Ironically this latest attack took place, soon after Sri Lankan officials, including the Sri Lanka external affairs minister GL Peiris, invoked the concept of freedom of expression while responding to the Oxford Union’s cancellation of President Rajapaksa's speech.

This attack at the airport is a clear demonstration of the Rajapaksa regime’s unhindered war against freedom of expression, that particularly targets those who stand up for the rights of Tamils who are now marginalised from the decision making processes. More than a year and a half since the Sri Lankan military’s victory over the Tamil Tigers, JDS believes the government has once again demonstrated its unwillingness to tolerate dissent or grant rights to the country’s minorities.

Therefore, we call upon all forces both within Sri Lanka and abroad who cherish freedom and democracy to do what they can to stop this extremely dangerous trend that threatens democracy.

Executive Committee
Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka

12 December 2010


Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka

  • JDS is the Sri Lankan partner organization of international media rights group, Reporters Without Borders (RSF). The launching of this website was made possible by the EU’s European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), of which Reporters Without Borders is a beneficiary.