The government of Sri Lanka did not play fair, in trying to win the vote at the human rights council – with state media referring to any Sri Lankan who dared to criticise them as “traitors to the motherland“, “dogs” and “supporters of the LTTE Rump”. After they lost the attacks continued with the Minister for Public relations, no less, threatening to break the legs of activists and state TV using photographs of an exiled journalist’s thirteen year old daughter in an attempt to further intimidate critics.
However the Government of Sri Lanka is making a big mistake if it thinks those it seeks to intimidate will take their smears and not respond. Civil society issued a strong joint statement, and several of those who were singled out have responded in written media, and on television.
This is Gene Sharp’s concept of “political ju-jitsu” in action. The harder the government attempts to crack down on and vilify the people they see as their opponents, the more they prove the criticisms of the regime to be justified.
But sadly that lesson has yet to be learned by the Sri Lankan Government. For this reason we bring you the case of Sandya Eknaligoda
Sandya is the wife of Prageeth – the journalist and cartoonist who has been missing for over two years. She has been working to find him ever since with, as she was forced to write to the National Human Rights Comission: virtually no help from the institutions of state.
On the 9th of November last year, Mohan Peiris, the former Sri Lankan Attorney General, and current legal adviser to the President, was testifying before the United Nations Committee Against Torture. In passing he said, “our current information is, that Mr. Eknaligoda has taken refuge in a foreign country.” It seems almost certain that this was simply a cruel and hurtful lie. If it were true, then Mr Peiris is guilty of obstructing the course of justice for failing to disclose the whereabouts of somebody believed to have disappeared.
For this reason Sandya asked Peiris to testify before the magistrates court investigating the case. Last Thursday investigating magistrates finally agreed that this should happen. This is great news and something that we all strongly welcome. Peiris will now appear in court on the 5th of June unless the Attorney General tries to prevent this on the 31st of May.
It is very important that Peiris testify– so please do take part in our action at the end of this piece.
But in the meantime Sandya went to Geneva – as was her right – to raise the case of her husband’s disappearance with people attending the human rights council. She spoke about her husband’s case at a side event on minority rights. For this she was subjected to brutal and inaccurate attacks in the Sri Lankan media.
Returning to Colombo the next week Sandya’s attended the latest day of the case she had brought on her husband’s disappearance. However, instead of discussing the matter at hand, the Government council spent the whole of the Monday session questioning her on her trip to Geneva. In other words, despite the fact that Sandya was not on trial, and despite the fact that this was a magistrates court that was hearing a case she had brought, Sandya had to defend herself against continuous and repeated allegations of treason.
The following comes from the AHRC’s record of events:
Mr. Fernando asked who invited and paid for expenses of the visit to Geneva and whether she received any money. The defense objected saying the questions did not pertain to the objective of the case, to which Mr. Fernando replied “I am entitled to ask any question to find out whether international organizations and NGO’s are provoking something against the state”.
In other words, the government council claims he is entitled to accuse a private petitioner in a civil case of treason – even when it is not relevant to the matter at hand – for the crime of talking to international NGOs. The case was then deferred until May.
Sandya’s trials will be worth it if eventually Mohan Peiris is compelled to testify and we get some information as to Prageeth’s whereabouts or fate. We have put together a suggested letter and some suggested recipients on this webpage. Please do take the time to visit and to write – it could make all the difference.