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Breakup Of Media Workshop Was Violation Of Multiple Rights

| The following statement issued by the National Peace Council

( June 15, 2014, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) There has been a worrisome pattern of forcible disruptions of civil society activities aimed at promoting accountability and good governance. The most recent targeting of a media workshop on investigative reporting is a continuation of this trend. This workshop held in a hotel in Negombo was disrupted by a mob who threatened the safety of the participants in violation of their rights to freedom of assembly and expression. The three day training workshop was on ‘the Investigative reporting on the enforcement of the recommendations made by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) and had been organized for the North- Eastern Tamil medium journalists by Transparency International’s Sri Lanka Branch.

The National Peace Council deplores the attitude of the Police who were not prepared to give protection to the participants at the workshop to enable them to continue with their programme. The police had only been prepared to offer safe passage to the participants to leave the hotel after the workshop had been prematurely stopped. The right to free assembly and speech are protected in our Constitution and the Police are obliged to protect these rights of the people. This constitutes a violation of the Rule of Law and may draw the attention of the United Nations since protection for the Rule of Law is an obligation of the Government under the UN Charter. The Government is already accused of violating the Rule of Law during and after the war and an international inquiry is ready to begin.

We are also appalled by what transpired afterwards. The participants at the workshop who were mostly Tamil-speaking and from the North and East, and who were transferred from the hotel in Negombo to a five star hotel in Colombo for the night, were forced to leave even that hotel at midnight. It is reported that after the participants were booked into their rooms the security and management came around about an hour later and demand that they vacate the premises alleging orders from above. In effect this meant that Tamil-speaking citizens of Sri Lanka, from the North and East, were forced out of the capital city of Colombo, and sent back to their places of residence in the North and East. This was in violation of their right to freedom of movement and residence and revived memories of how nearly 50 Tamil families temporarily resident in Colombo were arrested and sent back to the North and East during the last phase of the war. It required a judgment of the Supreme Court to reverse their eviction.

What occurred then and now was in violation of the unity of the country for which the thirty year long war was fought. It is this type of action that will strengthen the case for a separate State which is the government’s fear. In addition, the prevention of the workshop on improving on investigative reporting as called for by the LLRC recommendations which the government has pledged to implement casts a serious doubt on the willingness and commitment of the government to treat the recommendations with the seriousness they deserve. We call on the government authorities to realize their obligations under the United Nations Charter to maintain the Rule of Law and stick to the promise of the LLRC action plan.

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