Ruki Fernando and Fr Praveen Mahesan have been released but Jeyakumary Balendran and a number of others remain in detention. The situation in Sri Lanka continues to be incredibly troubling with the Government of Sri Lanka continuing a general crackdown on all forms of dissent. The latest news is:
- Over 300 members Sri Lankan civil society yesterday released a statement detailing and condemning what happened to Ruki and Fr Praveen, what is happening to Jeyakumary, and giving information about two other people detained under terrorism legislation. In a joint statement with CIVICUS and CHRI, we supported that condemnation.
- The Red Cross met Jeyakumary in Boosa detention centre, but have released no details about her condition. She remains without access to lawyers or family.
- Uthayan newspaper reports that a 34 year old man was subjected to a “white van” abduction on Tuesday. White vans have traditionally been used to disappear opponents of the regime.
- A student demonstration in Colombo regarding fees was broken up with tear gas and water cannon.
- The State owned news service carried a statement by a Government Minister accusing the Bishop of Mannar of treason for suggesting “that Tamils are subjected to abuse by the Sinhala majority in the country.” The Government also issued a statement claiming a Northern Provincial Councillor and activist for the disappeared “continues to demonstrate affinity with the cause of the LTTE” (Tamil Tigers).
- The Sri Lankan Ministry of External Affairs attempted to further besmirch Ruki and Fr Praveen’s reputation by claiming they were released on bail and that investigations continue. Their lawyers have confirmed to us that this is not the case and their release was unconditional.
- Former President Bandranaike has reported that she has been under surveillance and intimidation.
- We have received unconfirmed reports of other arrests, attacks on demonstrators by the extreme nationalist group BBS, and the temporary detention of a large group of people.
We must continue our campaign for those still in detention. The Government of Sri Lanka has taken the view that, while they could not stand up to the amount of pressure the international community brought to bear for Ruki and Fr Praveen, they can pick on those less protected with impunity. We must prove them wrong, and show we care just as much about all those unlawfully detained.
Here are three things you can do:
- Sign this petition, from the Asian Human Rights Commission, calling for Jeyakumary’s release.
- Write to your Government, asking them to take up the case. You can contact the British here, and the Americans here. A sample email is included below.
- Spread the word, about these cases. On social media people are using the hashtags #FreeJeyakumary and #Freethe1000s.
Jeyakumary is a prominent activist in the movement for the relatives of the disappeared. She led the demonstrations when David Cameron went to Jaffna, and her daughter (on the right) garlanded UN High Commissioner Navi Pillay when she visited Sri Lanka. As a Hindu, a Tamil, and a woman, she belongs to a much less well protected minority than Ruki and Fr Praveen, but she needs our support just as badly.
Please take a few moments to help.
An outpouring of international pressure managed to secure the release of two Sri Lankan human rights defenders, arrested without evidence early in the week. But a third remains in detention, along with many others held under the unjust Prevention of Terrorism Act, which allows the Sri Lankan Government to hold people without evidence for up to 18 months.
Jeyakumary Balendran led the demonstrations when David Cameron went to Jaffna, and her daughter garlanded UN High Commissioner Navi Pillay when she visited Sri Lanka. The Government of Sri Lanka are gambling on the international community not paying as much attention to her arrest because she doesn’t speak English, and is a Hindu Tamil woman, a minority who have very little voice in international affairs.
Please prove them wrong by pushing for her release, and that of others held under the PTA.