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Attack on the Human Right's Campaigners

| by Suntharam Mahendran

( December 28, 20123 - Colombo - Sri Lanka Guardian) The Committee for Investigation of Disappearances staged a protest at 11am on the 10th of December 2013, to coincide with International Human Rights Day, near the Trincomalee bus station. The protesters, comprised of the families of the disappeared, human rights activists, social workers, and representatives from Nava Sama Samaja Party and Tamil political parties, demanded the release of the disappeared and political prisoners, implementation of LLRC recommendations and the resettlement of the displaced, especially the people who were displaced from Sampoor.

Chanting slogans such as “The abducted is my son,” “The abducted is my daughter,” “The abductor is the state,” “The white van too is from the state,” “Release political prisoners immediately,” “You have imprisoned the people extra-judicially,” and “Grant power to the Tamils,” “Implement LLRC recommendations”. The people gathered near the bus station participated in a peaceful protest. Police officers were also present, When the protest was in progress, a Sinhala chauvinist arrived at the protest site and insisted that we stop the protest immediately and started an altercation with us. We told him patiently that our protest had nothing to do with politics based on ethnic or religious chauvinism and if any of his relatives went missing, he could take part in the protest and articulate his opposition to the disappearances that have happened in the country. Shortly after he had left the protest site, again he came back towards us, accompanied by a group of more than twenty-five chauvinists. They tore up and threw away our banners and the photographs of the disappeared that the mothers who participated in the protest were holding and attacked the protestors ruthlessly. The group specially assaulted me and Kusumasiri Jayawardane (NSSP), who took part in the protest. Two members representing the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) in the Eastern Provincial Council, Janarthanan and Nageswaran, and Thiruchelvam, former Leader of the Opposition, Muttur Pradeshiya Sabha, were also beaten during this incident while NSSP members Saranapala, Ranjith, Nnandasiri, Jenagan bravely faced the trhugs. Thiruchelvam former Leader of the Opposition, Muttur Pradeshiya Sabha, and I, the Secretary of the Committee for Investigation of Disappearances, were assaulted so brutally that we, later on, had to admit ourselves to the Intensive Care Unit of the Trincomalee Hospital to receive medical treatment. All this happened in the presence of police officers.

We went to the Trincomalee police station to report the attack on the protestors to the police. We were shocked to notice that the Officer-in-charge of the police station gave instructions to his subordinate officer in a tone implying threat to our lives. Instructing his junior officer to submit a report to the court, the OIC rudely said that he would deal with me in the court and took down my name and address in his journal. Even though I included in my statement that the police force deployed to give protection to the protestors, looked on as the chauvinists assaulted us and did not do anything to safeguard the protestors; that the Chief Officer threatened me when I brought the incident to his concern; the Recording Officer declined to record my statement. Then I added to my statement that the manner in which the police officers treated me and acted on my complaint was not satisfactory and that I would file a complaint with the Inspector General of Police and the Human Rights Commission. Police officers started to take down the complaint only after the intervention of SSP Mark, who was informed of the issue by Dr Vickramabahu from Colombo.

On the same day, many television channels reported the attack on the protestors in their newscasts with video footages. Many local and international online media sites also published news items on this attack immediately. The banner headlines of all the Tamil newspapers published on the 12th of December 2013 drew everyone’s attention to the attack on the protestors. A few Sinhala and English newspapers also covered the incident.

While vehemently condemning this attack on our organization, the mothers who participated in the protests and regional political leaders, we call for the intervention of all those who are concerned for Human Rights Council to ensure that a proper investigation into the attacks is conducted and to create an atmosphere that would enable us to continue our activist work without the interference of chauvinist forces and the repressive apparatuses of the state.

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