| A statement issued by the national Peace Council

( March 20, 2914, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The National Peace Council welcomes the government’s release of Ruki Fernando and Father Praveen Mahesan who were arrested earlier this week under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. We are pleased to note that they were released unconditionally and speedily as the allegations on which they were detained were devoid of substance. We recognize that the government was willing to reassess their arrest in the face of the local and international pressure and appeals made to secure their release.

We call upon the government to likewise reassess the other recent arrests including Balendran Jayakumari who has been in the forefront of families seeking their missing ones. The Prevention of Terrorism Act which was enacted to deal with conditions of terrorism and war is no longer indispensable. Therefore we call upon the Government to take action against them if warranted under the normal law of the land. We expect the government to follow the recommendation of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and call on the government to repeal this Act which is a potential instrument of abuse.

His Excellency President Rajapakse himself was himself a human rights defender when he brought up issues of serious human rights abuses in international fora in the late 1980s. Those who engage in fact finding and who report on human rights violations are performing an important task which is part of the system of monitoring human rights and providing checks and balances in any democratic society. It was and remains our position that Ruki and Fr Praveen are Human Rights workers acting within the law and not persons who have violated the criminal law or sought to create disaffection against communities.

Meanwhile the National Peace Council issued a statement while rejecting the story published by the State own Daily news.

The Daily News of 18 March 2014 in its lead front page story claimed “National Peace Council Tiger Links Bared” in relation the arrest and detention of Human Rights Defenders, Ruki Fernando and Fr Praveen Mahesan. We categorically refute this malicious accusation. Both of them were released without charge by the government which contradicts the assertion of this newspaper.

We are distressed that the premier English language daily newspaper of the Government of Sri Lanka should engage in such misinformation and lead its readership astray. It also conveys a wrong impression of the government’s own position on a matter that has attracted widespread international attention and even been discussed at the ongoing UN Human Rights Council sessions in Geneva.

NPC has a mission to promote peace and reconciliation by engaging with all parties to the national conflict. We believe in non-violent conflict resolution and that the roots of conflict should be dealt with through political dialogue and reform. We have always promoted the unity of the country nationally and internationally. We have engaged and cooperated with the state and its authorities where and when needed. We operate within the law and are committed to a united Sri Lanka.