| The following statement issued by the Asian Human Rights Commission , a regional right body headquartered in Hong Kong SAR.
( August 7, 2014, Hong Kong, Sri Lanka Guardian) On the 4th of August, a meeting for the families of disappeared persons, held at the Centre for Society and Religion in Colombo, was disrupted by a mob of people led by several Buddhist monks. The families, who had travelled from Mannar, Mullaitivu, Killinochchi, Vavuniya, and Jaffna, had also visited the International Committee of the Red Cross Office prior to this meeting.
According to reports, over 30 family members of disappeared persons, members of civil society and NGOs, several Catholic priests and nuns, as well as members of the diplomatic community, were present when the disruption took place. The incident was described in a complaint made to the Maradana Police by Brito Fernando, one of the organisers of the meeting:
“At about 2:15 p.m., a person who claimed to be from Derana TV channel came carrying media equipment, claiming that he has received an invitation to the meeting through a fax. We explained that we have never sent any such fax and that this meeting is only for the invitees. Then, this person left. Then a lady came in the same manner, and we were able to send her away too. The fake fax invitation to the meeting had been sent under my name as the chairperson of the Families of the Disappeared Persons.
“The fake fax was sent from the following fax number: 011 2799 110. It bore the name ‘BS Net Café’. When we later made enquiries, we found that this fax number is registered at Sri Lanka Telecom under the name of Darshake Udayapila, No. 157/B, Thalawathugoda Road, Madiwela. In this fake fax invitation, it was mentioned that a special discussion would be held in order to create awareness among North and East activists and other persons about how to give evidence at the international inquiry on war crimes to be held in the future.
“Within an hour of the meeting starting, eight Buddhist monks, along with 30 other people, forcibly entered the meeting and started shouting and making death threats, demanding that the meeting be brought to an end. They did this for about an hour, making the parents of the disappeared afraid, as well as embarrassing the representatives from the embassies. Rev. Father Asok called the Maradana police, informing them about the situation and asking them for protection.
“A large group of policemen arrived immediately but they were unable to provide us with protection. We requested them to arrest the people who had entered the meeting’s premises by force for trespass and making threats, or at least to remove these people and allow us to carry on with the meeting. The police officers took the side of the disrupters, stating that they could not provide protection and ordering us to stop the meeting. Thus, they acted in an unlawful manner. The police asked five of the disrupters and five of the organisers of the meeting to come to the Maradana police station and have a discussion, which we refused.
“We told the police that they should remove the disrupters and, as there was no complaint against us, there was no need for us to visit the police station. Shortly afterwards, on the information that a complaint had been made against me and Dr. Nimalka, and that I should therefore come to the police station, I went to the police station and gave a statement replying to the complaint. A group of disrupters from the meeting were already inside the office of the Officer in Charge of the police station. We can produce the photos of these disrupters. Eight monks and two laypeople, claiming to the Secretary and Convener of an organization, led the disruption. One of the monks that led the disruption made the complaint against us.”
Mobilizing mobs led by Buddhist monks to disrupt meetings organized by civil society groups has become a common occurrence. Buddhist monks are being used as provocateurs in such disruptions.
The Secretary of the Ministry of Defence and Urban Development divulged use of this method; he told some journalists, such as the former editor of The Sunday Leader, Frederica Jansz, that the people will soon attack them.
By the use of mob attacks, the government can create the impression that these are spontaneous attacks by people and that the government does not have any responsibility regarding such attacks.
Another feature of such mob attacks is the support extended to them by the police. As a consequence, no genuine inquiry is held into the attacks by these ‘mobs’.
The Asian Human Rights Commission condemns the disruption of this meeting, organized for the benefit of one of the most victimized groups in Sri Lanka, the family members of the disappeared. AHRC also states that the family members of the disappeared in the North and East have the same grievances as others who have faced similar violations. To deny these persons the right to have their problems discussed is a fundamental violation of the democratic rights of these persons. Such attacks also disrupt the reconciliation between racial and ethnic groups. Further, the use of mob attacks to disrupt civil society meetings and gatherings amounts to an attack on the democratic way of life, which is the entitlement of everyone in Sri Lanka.
We particularly condemn the death threats made against the organizers of the civil society gathering. We call upon everyone to demand from the government a genuine inquiry into this mob attack and, in particular, an enquiry into the death threats made against the organizers.