By Mannif in Geneva
(March 23, Geneva, Sri Lanka Guardian) Since the presidential election on January 26, 2010, the political situation in Sri Lanka has been deteriorating day by day, prompting more and more doubts concerning the “large victory” proclaimed by president RAJAPAKSE.
The independent press is prohibited. Restrictions on Internet, television are used to disseminate propaganda presidency. Independent journalists have been arrested, detained or fled. Members of opposition parties have been violently assaulted or harassed in their workplaces. Their homes and their premises have been attacked or looted. All political demonstrations and protest activities have been banned since 19th February until 15th April. Clearly, the current head of state President RAJAPAKSE elected by the rigged election of January 27, 2010, is currently leading the country into a dictatorship. Police has announced that they have found 17 unidentified dead bodies since last 2 months.
We are witnessing disappearances, abductions and punishment of people engaged in media who criticized the government. Defense organizations of journalists ranked Sri Lanka as one of the most dangerous countries for journalists. According to Amnesty International, at least 14 journalists and media workers in Sri Lanka have been killed since early 2006.
There is still no news of journalist 'LankaEnews', who has courageously opposed the government, disappeared 2 days before the election. The editor of the newspaper ‘Lanka Irida’, arrested in the aftermath of elections because of his political positions, has been released (3 weeks later) by decision of the Magistrate Court for lack of evidence. Very recent arrest of defense correspondent journalist Ruwan WEERAKONE by the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID), seems to be another politically motivated victimization, is direct result of his journalism practice.
President RAJAPAKSE has surrounded by his family to rule the country (more than 300 persons of his family hold key positions). Of the 117 ministers, two of his brothers occupy ministerial positions one defense, other finance. Third have become his chief adviser and his 22 years old son is being nominated to contest the forthcoming general elections in April.
At the end of the war in Sri Lanka, all communities in Sri Lankan (Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim...) have patiently waited for a reconciliation project as part of a program, based on restoring the rule of law, democracy, human rights and the rights of minorities. But those in power did not submit such a project to eliminate the antagonism produced during the war that has claimed thousands of lives since 1983. Squandering public money, the plan called for unprecedented rigged elections to strengthen his power in the country.
Since the end of the war, the Tamil refugees have been living in miserable conditions in refugee camps in the North and East. The paramilitary militias, harassing young Tamil intensify extortion in the north and east by blackmail, intimidation and terror in the eyes of the army and police. Government ministers divert the money injected by the World Bank and other international institutions for reconstruction and development of areas affected by tsunami and the conflict.
Faced with this unacceptable situation, disappointed because of the attitudes of government, former military forces chief, General Sarath FONSEKA has resigned from his lately appointed post as government’s Chief of the Defense Staff (CDS) and decided to stand for presidential elections. An initiative supported by the main opposition parties in the country including the party of the Tamils and Muslims.
The corrupt regime of Mr. RAJAPAKSE was surprised by the reaction of his former chief of staff. From that moment, the RAJAPAKSE clan multiplied the slander and accusations against General FONSEKA and its close allies. It has been used improperly to the media and some private media. Mr. RAJAPAKSE heavily used assets and public funds for his campaign by violating all election rules.
For the first time in the history of this country, torn by war, all communities have largely gathered around General FONSEKA to overthrow the regime of Mr. RAJAPAKSE. He embodied the hopes of the people to end the feudal system responsible for all the country's problems since its independence.
Given the popularity of General FONSEKA the RAJAPAKSE regime has begun to take a companion of terror. But the people have determined to elect the General FONSEKA as president. In counting the ballot, observers from political parties were forcibly expelled. At the same time, the corrupt officers of the army were preparing a coup in case the General FONSEKA was elected. The coup leaders were determined to eliminate it.
The next day, most of his followers were arrested and imprisoned. Many officials of the Police and the army suspected of supporting the general were either dismissed or transferred to other sectors. According to one of the presidential candidates, Mr. WIKRAMABAHU, nearly 1200 people have been imprisoned since the elections.
However, three weeks since their arrest, the magistrate court for lack of evidence released 14 officials of the General’s party alleging they had participated in conspiracy against the state. To date, all General’s close aides are released under the same circumstances.
On February 8, 2010, Sri Lanka’s only four star General (retired) FONSEKA was undemocratically arrested by military police, even though he’s no longer part of the army. To date, no valid charge justifies his arrest. On February 23, the Supreme Court, (which was shuffled by president RAJAPAKSE, 2 days before the hearing) ‘refused’ to release the General, following a fundamental rights petition filed by him through his wife Anoma FONSEKA, but allowed access to his immediate family members and lawyers.
Since, to date, the court decision is only partially respected. According to his wife Anoma, the government spokesmen are also spreading falsehoods that he is being kept at a very luxurious place. However he is being detained in a place where there is not even sufficient ventilation and sunlight.
When lawyers representing General FONSEKA raised objections during two military trials held on March 16 and 17, the same panel of judges appointed by the head of state to conduct both trials, suddenly decided to put off the hearing stating that they would have to consider whether the hearing could be continued. General Sarath FONSEKA’s lawyers objected to the court stating the panel of judges with Maj. Gen. WEERATUNGA, the president of the council, brother-in-law of the present Commander of the Army. Maj. General JAYATILAKE was an officer who had been demoted for an offence and Maj. General. WIJETUNGA had been found guilty of an illegal tender dealing while General FONSEKA was the Army Commander.
There are increasingly more voices against government policy in Sri Lanka. Senior clerics Buddhists, Catholics, Anglicans, etc.. Condemn the government’s actions. Many Sri Lankans living abroad have massively demonstrated in different countries. Important numbers of expatriates living in different parts of Europe demonstrated and handed over a petition to the UN Office. The petition was against the government’s in-humane actions. The demonstration took place on 19 March 2010 by the United Nations’ Office in Geneva.
Sri Lanka's top Buddhist monks called off a special gathering was to hold on 18th of February due to government pressure, with bomb threats had been involved. The Buddhist leaders had planned to meet on that day to discuss a strategy for pressing the government, regarding the current situation.
An investigation by the European Commission identified significant shortcomings in the implementation of the three UN Conventions on Human Rights. Members of the EU have decided to withdraw preferential tariff benefits to Sri Lanka under a special incentive arrangement for sustainable development. The recent move by the United Nations chief BAN KI-MOON’s proposing to set up an expert panel to look into alleged human rights violations was termed by president RAJAPAKSE as “unwarranted” and “uncalled for” and rejected. However BAN KI-MOON has said that he is going ahead with his proposal for a panel of experts on Sri Lanka as part of an accountability process.
On 17 March, minister of Human Rights Mahinda SAMARASINGHA stated that the government completely rejects any international monitoring panel on Sri Lanka for coming elections in April.
UN’s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Article 25: The right to vote in "genuine periodic elections “which guarantee "the free expression of the will of the electors.” Article 9-1: ‘Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention. No one shall be deprived of his liberty except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedure as are established by law’. Article 9:2 ‘Anyone who is arrested shall be informed, at the time of arrest, of the reasons for his arrest and shall be promptly informed of any charges against him’, being ignored by the government.
Sri Lanka's human rights and free-speech issues need international attention and the international community must demand that the corrupt regime of Mr. RAJAPAKSE to ensure the safety of General FONSEKA and unconditional release, for being detained him for fabricated political charges. A trustworthy monitoring system must be implemented to prevent fraud in the coming elections be held on 08 April 2010.
By Mannif in Geneva