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Diary of Terror part 11 – 15th February 2010

Death threats to opposition Presidential Candidate’s lawyer

Sri Lankan Human Rights Watch

(February 16, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Wijedasa Rajapaksha PC, the senior lawyer handling the case onbehalf of defeated common candidate for the presidential election Gen (Ret) Sarath Fonseka, has received death threats. This was announced by the opposition official spokesman to the media. According to the reports, Mr. Rajapaksha has received death threats several times telling him to abandon the legal work that he’s doing on behalf of Sarath Fonseka.

Retired General Sarath Fonseka and the opposition have announced that they are filing an election petition to annul the election result announced by the Commissioner of Elections on the 27th of January regarding the Presidential Elections. The opposition is challenging the result on the basis of election riggings.

The Supreme Court last week allowed an application requesting permission to be granted to the lawyer for Gen (Ret) Sarath Fonseka to visit him in prison and to get his signature for the election petition. The application before the Supreme Court was filed by the wife of Sarath Fonseka and several opposition leaders, alleging that several violations of fundamental rights have been made against the defeated opposition candidate.

Making of death threats has become very much a part of the political culture in Sri Lanka. Many lawyers recently have received death threats for appearing for political opponents of the government.

On two occasions, notices were filed in the Defense Ministry website naming lawyers who appear for some opponents of the government as traitors, implying that they deserved to be punished. On the first occasion, lawyers appearing for the Sunday Leader in a case before a district court were named as traitors. On another occasion, several lawyers who were appearing for defendants in cases under the Prevention of Terrorism act were named as traitors and were threatened with death. Several letters were distributed by a group calling itself Mahason Balakai (Demon Brigade) threatened such lawyers with death. On another occasion, a lawyer appearing for many human rights cases had a grenade thrown at his house. All these actions came under serious condemnations from local and international human rights agencies, including the international bar association and several agencies of the United Nations.

The Sri Lankan Bar association passed resolutions condemning threats and attacks on lawyers several times and a called for effective investigations into such allegations. Despite such calls, no investigations have been conducted and no one has been prosecuted for such actions. In some instances, lawyers themselves have filed cases for violations of their rights before the Supreme Court and these cases are pending.

In the recent weeks, there were many instances in which opposition demonstrations were attacked by thugs who were accompanied by the police. On several occasions, media agencies published photographs of thugs attacking demonstrators and being protected by the police. On many occasions, the government politicians participated in leading attacks against demonstrations, calling for the release of Gen (Ret) Sarath Fonseka.

The police often tried to arrest the opposition demonstrators rather than the criminals attacking demonstrators. On one occasion, a magistrate severely reprimanded the police for acting partially and for not carrying out their legal obligations.

The leading journalist Prageeth Ekanaliyagoda has disappeared for two days prior to the presidential elections and the police have not been able to provide any information about this disappearance. The family and the friends of the disappeared journalist believe that the government death squads are behind the disappearance and that this is the reason that the police are unable to investigate into this matter.

The country’s leaders of the Buddhist orders of monks have explicitly condemned the arrest and detention of Sarath Fonseka and others from the military. They have called the President to release the general and others. So far, the government has not made any official response to this very extraordinary call from the country’s leading Buddhist clergy.

Mahinda Rajapaksha as president has made no attempt at all to demonstrate that he is making an attempt to control the situation in the country within a framework of rule of law and democracy. Instead, the governmen’s approach seems to be extremely provocative and encouraging of violence against all opponents, thus recreating a situation in which forced disappearences, illegal arrest and detention, blatant abuse of legal process with fabricated charges and creating fictitious accusations accompanied by a complete abuse of the state media for propagating to slander and falsehood against opponents are all characterirstic of the present situation.

The government has made it all to obvious that by hook or crook it wants to get a two thirds majority within parliament. Obviously, this is not rationally a possibility. If it can be achieved at all, it would be achieved by use of force creating of completely false impressions. Such an outcome would not have any kind of credibility at all. However, the government seems to be purusing this course despite evoking most unusual forms of opposition even from the country’s three leading orders from Buddhist Sanga.

Under these circumstances, the threats made to the lawyer representing Sarath Fonseka need to be taken seriously and resisted by all those who are concerned about rule of law and democracy in the country. This lawyer and others who engage in the exercise of their legitimate functions deserve the concern and the protection of the rest of society and the international community.

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