This is the last part a three part series on the incidents surrounding the storming of a meeting in Colombo by a mob of Government supporters last Tuesday. In part one we provided a narrative of events with some photos and footage from the scene. In part two we analysed these events, and in this part we will talk about its aftermath and the reactions from both sides.
Several statements were issued in the wake of the incident. The US embassy statement accused the local police of supporting the mob and the protesters of being intent only on intimidating and silencing those in attendance. The embassies of Great Britain, France, Germany and Switzerland later followed suit with a fairly bland statement.
The Lawyers’ Collective in Sri Lanka’s statement and the Centre for Policy Alternatives’ condemnation the incident both lamented in particular the continued impunity enjoyed by government supporters.
Meanwhile at a press conference the following day, Ven. Angulugalle Siri Jinananda Thera of the DMPFF claimed full responsibility for the disruption of the meeting and then went on to make a series of unfounded allegations and outright lies. The press conference (in Sinhala) can be seen here:
And you can read a full translation in English here.
Here were some of his most outrageous statements, often made while pointing to a photograph of the activist in question.
- That all the families from North were “Mahaveerar” (i.e. “Great heroes” – usually referring to the families of deceased LTTE members). This is false. Several of the families present claimed that their relatives were not part of the LTTE. Others said their relatives were in the LTTE, but had disappeared after surrendering.
- That each family was paid two hundred thousand Rupees to give evidence. This is entirely false; unsurprisingly no evidence has been produced to substantiate this claim.
- That Nimalka Fernando and Brito Fernando are seeking to undermine Sri Lanka’s sovereignty. The day before he had said that these people should be hanged. Nimalka Fernando and Brito Fernando have both been activists for the cause of human rights and peace for many years. Nimalka Fernando herself has provided the most articulate explanation of how this work is the exact opposite of treason.
- That Ruki Fernando had recently given protection to LTTE cadres who were spearheading the re-emergence of the LTTE in the country. This is an entirely false rewriting of the story of how Ruki Fernando was arrested earlier in the year in relation to his human rights work. This is discussed at length in our campaign director’s recent paper.
- That Fr. M. Sathivel is homeless and has been excommunicated, that he tried to assault some of the monks who came to CSR and that he was mainly responsible for the situation becoming heated. The video in part 1 of our blog series clearly shows this not to be the case. No evidence has been presented to substantiate the outlandish assertions against Fr Sathivel personally.
- That the Peratugami political party (whose representative Pubudu Jagoda was at CSR), has, from its inception been pro-LTTE and pro-Tamil diaspora. The PSP is a largely Sinhalese leftist political party that has its origins in the Sinhalese Nationalist Marxist JVP.
- That Bishop Rajappu Joseph (referred to as the Archbishop of Mannar) has supported the LTTE for decades, and that he and his assistant Fr. Sebamalei were involved in coordinating these events and sending people to attend them. No evidence has been produced to substantiate this claim. Bishop Joseph is one of the leaders of Tamil Civil Society, while Fr Sebemalei is a human rights activist and priest who has come under attack before.
- That the lawyer J. C. Weliamuna is a traitor to his profession. J.C. Weiliamuna is a reputable human rights lawyer, the convener of Lawyers for Democracy, a member of the Sri Lankan Bar Association, and the Sri Lanka director of the respected international NGO Transparency International. Despite an attack on his home in 2010, in which a hand grenade was thrown into his house, he continues to fight for the rights of all Sri Lankans. In no way does this constitute treason.
- That US Embassy money and vehicles were being used to transport these families from the North to Colombo. This is entirely false; unsurprisingly no evidence has been produced to substantiate this claim.
- That the testimonies of families was immediately communicated to US and Geneva via Skype. Not only is this untrue but it is patently absurd. Anyone who has attempted to use Skype will know how technically unsuitable it is for large public meetings of this kind. Moreover, few would be reckless enough to use Skype as a means of transferring sensitive evidence to investigative procedures and it is doubtful if evidence submitted this way would be admissible.
- That the mob didn’t break into or disrupt the meeting and that they approached the organizers peacefully to make an appeal to them before they responded angrily. Again video footage in part one clearly shows this not to be the case.
As discussed in part two of our blog, many of these lies are fairly dangerous, while the choice of those targeted demonstrates a concerted effort to target prominent and outspoken human rights activists, and in particular those looking to make links between Colombo and grassroots victims and relatives groups in the North.