| A statement issued by the National Peace Council

( March 17, 2014, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The National Peace Council views with great concern the arrest of Ruki Fernando and Fr Praveen Mahesan, two of the leading human rights defenders in the country. Both of them are partners of NPC and have taken part in our programs. Their commitment to sustainable peace and reconciliation and promotion of humanitarian norms are unquestionable. Both of them were arrested last evening in Kilinochchi in the North where they had been seeing to the welfare of families of missing persons following the arrest and detention of one of their members Balendran Jayakumari, whose youngest son went missing after allegedly surrendering to the army at the end of the war.

Ms Jayakumari was arrested under the prevention under the Prevention of Terrorism Act which was formulated to deal with issues of terrorism and war and has no place in a post-war country. Human rights activists like Ruki and Fr Praveen are those who give hope to the hopeless and who by their support discourage extremism. The harsh measures taken against human rights defenders will only show the UNHRC and democratic world opinion that there are continuing problems of arbitrary arrest and detention for human rights workers in Sri Lanka who make representations about such violations to international fora such as the UN Human Rights Council.

We call upon the Government of Sri Lanka to uphold the Rule of Law and follow Due Process including transparent procedures. NPC also points to the need of the Sri Lankan State to allow the Human Rights workers and Non-Governmental Organizations in the field to carry out their activities as recognized in the UN Charter. We regret that civil institutions such as the Police no longer have the independence to act according to their conscience and in the spirit of the normal laws of the country. We call upon the Government to allow civil authorities enforcing the law to act under the normal law when investigating crimes or offences without resorting to draconian provisions of the law, such as found in the Prevention of Terrorism Act.