|Image courtesy: Foreign Correspondents' Association of Sri Lanka|
( March 19, 2014, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Former President and former leader of the ruling Sri Lankan Freedom Party, Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, in a special letter to the President Mahinda Rajapaksa says, certain activities undertaken by the government have violated her privacy, caused harassment and affected her personal safety.
She adds that her telephone conversations and emails are under constant surveillance and her personal residences in Colombo and Horagolla are being watched by security authorities.
The Former President states that such activities conducted by defence establishments amount to a serious violation of my Fundamental Rights to movement and association.
“This amounts to a calculated strategy of your Government to harass me and cause severe mental and emotional stress to me, while intimidating my friends and associates. This situation is compounded by the knowledge that you have informed a large number of senior members of our Party and our Government to desist from talking and associating with me, during the past 8 years of your Presidency,” she said.
“I would be pleased if you could inform me what crimes and offences I have committed, in which way I have been a public nuisance or affected public peace, or behaved in a disorderly or suspicious manner,” CBK further added in her letter dated March 05.
The full letter sent by former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga is as follows,
5th March, 2014.
His Excellency Mahinda Rajapakse,
President of Sri Lanka,
Harassment of Former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga Through Illegal Surveillence
I write to inform you of certain activities undertaken by your Government that have violated my privacy, caused much harassment to me and concern with regard to my personal safety.
This situation also violates my Fundamental Rights, impinging on my freedom of movement and freedom of association.
Since I retired from the Presidency in 2005 and you assumed the office of President, the secret services of the Government, which are directly under the authority of yourself and your brother Gotabhaya Rajapakse, Secretary to your Ministry of Defence, have relentlessly pursued the following actions :
• Constant surveillance of all my telephone and email communications
• Constant surveillance of my residences in Colombo and at Horagolla
• “Visits” paid to several friends, consequent to their visiting my home, by officers introducing themselves as from the NIB. They have been interrogated, in an intimidating manner, about what they did at my home, who else was present and what was discussed.
I complained in writing about this to the former Inspector General of Police Mr. Jayantha Wickremeratne by my letter dated 19th October, 2009 and also talked to him on the phone. I did not have the courtesy of even an acknowledgement, similarly to several letters written to you, your Secretary Lalith Weeratunga as well as Secretary, Ministry of Defence Gotabhaya Rajapakse on other matters.
• NIB officers visiting and interrogating the management of hotels, after I have happened to visit these hotels for entirely personal reasons. They have been questioned as to why I went to the hotel, what I discussed, who I meet there, etc. They also place officers at the hotel, to watch and report on who attends my events. The staff at these hotels has been so intimidated and frightened by these actions, that I now find it difficult to arrange even personal events at hotels.
• Recently I went to the Kurunegala District, for a personal visit. A few long-time friends learnt of my visit and invited me to their homes – one for tea and the other for dinner. The local NIB officer subjected my hosts to constant harassment for several days before and after my visit, inquiring about the reasons for my visit, whom I met, etc. In the context of a culture of white vans, these friends are terrified to associate with me anymore.
• I also went recently to Anuradhapura with foreign friends. The hotel I stayed in was under a 24 hour surveillance by NIB officers, who were recognized and spoken to by my security detail. The net result would be that the said hotel management will be hesitant to accommodate me in the future.
• It is noteworthy that my security officers have recognized some of the NIB personnel engaging in various acts of surveillance
I am deeply concerned about the above for the reasons given below :
1. This is a serious violation of my Fundamental Rights to movement and association.
2. This amounts to a calculated strategy of your Government to harass me and cause severe mental and emotional stress to me, while intimidating my friends and associates. This situation is compounded by the knowledge that you have informed a large number of senior members of our Party and our Government to desist from talking and associating with me, during the past 8 years of your Presidency.
3. Taking into consideration the prevailing practice of destroying anyone who is considered a threat to the higher authorities of your Government, by means of murder, “disappearances”, physical attacks, I have serious reasons to be concerned about my safety. The practice of constant surveillance is an effective means of obtaining information about my whereabouts, in order to facilitate planned action against my person.
I say that the surveillance that has been mounted on me, the Former President of Sri Lanka, is illegal for the following reasons :
• The only legal provision relating to this issue is Section 56 of the Police Ordinance. This Section casts a duty on a Police Officer to use his best endeavours to prevent all crimes, offences and public nuisances, to preserve the peace, to apprehend disorderly and suspicious characters and to collect and communicate intelligence affecting the public peace, etc.
• This Section evidently comes into operation when the relevant Police authority has reasonable grounds to suspect that the person they need to mount surveillance on is engaged in the above stated activities. I would be pleased if you could inform me what crimes and offences I have committed, in which way I have been a public nuisance or affected public peace, or behaved in a disorderly or suspicious manner.
• In the absence of the above unlawful activities, I clearly wish to inform you that the surveillance mounted on me by your Government is illegal and unconstitutional and in violation of my Fundamental Rights.
I wish to earnestly request Your Excellency to take immediate action to instruct all relevant authorities to stop all illegal surveillance done with regards to myself.
Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga