ජිවිත ආරක්ෂාව පතා ශ්‍රී ලංකාවට පැමිණි සරණාගතයන්ට රැකවරණය නොදීමට තරම් ඡන්ද ප්‍රචාරණය වැදගත්ද?

First published at https://www.vikalpa.org/?p=36085 on 8th Nov. 2019

මගේ පාකිස්තාන ජාතික යෙහෙළියක පසුගිය සති අන්තයේ මට එවූ කෙටි පණිවිඩයක “කරුණාකර මගේ පවුල බේරාගන්න!” යනුවෙන් ආයාචනා කොට තිබුණි. ඇය එලෙස සඳහන් කර සිටියේ ක්‍රිස්තියානි ආගමිකයන් වීම හේතුවෙන් පීඩා විඳ, පසුව පාකිස්තානයෙන් පලා ආ, ළමයින් තුන්දෙනෙකු ඇතුලුව හත්දෙනෙකුගෙන් සමන්විත ඇගේ පවුල පිළිබඳවයි. ඔවුන් සිය ජීවිතාරක්ෂාව බලාපොරොත්තුවෙන් ඔක්තෝබර් 27 වැනි දින උදෑසන කටුනායක ජාත්‍යන්තර ගුවන්තොටුපළට ගොඩබැස්ස නමුත්, ශ්‍රී ලංකා ආගමන නිලධාරීන් විසින් රඳවා තබාගැනීමෙන් පසු, ඔක්තෝබර් 28 වැනි දින රාත්‍රියේ නැවත පිටුවහල් කරන කිරීම හේතුවෙනි.

ඒ සති අන්තයේම මට ලැබුණු තවත් කෙටි පණිවිඩයක “අපිට උදව් කළ හැකි කවුරුහරි ඉන්නවාද?” යනුවෙන් විමසා තිබුනේ පාකිස්තාන් ජාතික “අහ්මදි” ආගමික පසුබිමක් ඇති පවුලකි. ඔවුන් ද, පාකිස්තානයේ ඔවුන් ලක්වන පීඩාවලින් මිදීමේ අරමුණින් ආරක්ෂාව පතා ශ්‍රී ලංකාවට පැමිණි අය යි. නමුත් ඔවුන්ව ද නැවත පිටුවහල් කරන ලදී.

ඔවුන්ගේ බැරෑරුම් ආයාචනාවන්ට පිළිතුරු ලෙස, මම එක්සත් ජාතීන්ගේ සංවිධානයේ සරණාගතයන් පිළිබඳ මහකොමසාරිස් කාර්යාලයේ ශ්‍රී ලංකා කාර්යාලයේ ප්‍රධානියා ද, එක්සත් ජාතීන්ගේ සංවිධානයේ ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ නිත්‍ය නියෝජිත සහ මානව හිමිකම් කොමිසම ද සම්බන්ධ කරගත්තෙමි. නමුත් ඔවුන්ගේ උත්සාහයන් ද නිෂ්ඵල කරමින්, ඒ පවුල් රටින් පිටමං කරන ලදී. මිතුරු සම්බන්ධතා හරහා අගමැතිවරයා ඇතුලු ආණ්ඩු පක්ෂ මන්ත්‍රීවරුන් ද සම්බන්ධ කරගත් නමුත්, ඔවුන් කියා සිටියේ ඔවුන් ජනාධිපතිවරණ ප්‍රචාරණ ව්‍යාපාරවල කාර්යබහුල බැවින් සහ මේ අවස්ථාවේ එම පවුල්වලට උපකාර කිරීම ඔවුන්ගේ අපේක්ෂකයන්ට අවාසි සහගත විය හැකි බව යි. සිය ජීවිතවල ආරක්ෂාව පතා ශ්‍රී ලංකාවට පැමිණි පවුල් දෙකක ආයාචනාවලට වඩා ඡන්ද ප්‍රචාරණ  වැදගත් වූ බව ඉන් පැහැදිලි විය.

තාවකාලික රැඳීසිටින්නන් පිටුවහල් කිරීම ආණ්ඩුවේ ප්‍රතිපත්තිය බවත්, මේ හැර වෙනත් තාවකාලික රැඳීසිටින්නන් ද පිටුවහල් කිරීමට ලක් වූ බවත් මට දැනගන්නට ලැබිණි.

මෙලෙස පිටුවහල් කළ පවුල් දෙකම ගුවන්තොටුපළේ රඳවා තබාගත් කාලය අතරතුර තාවකාලිකව රැඳීසිටීම අපේක්ෂාවෙන් ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ එක්සත් ජාතීන්ගේ සරණාගතයන් පිළිබඳ මහකොමසාරිස් කාර්යාලයට අයැදුම් කර තිබුණි. ඔවුන්ව පිටුවහල් කිරීම, තාවකාලික රැඳීසිටින්නන්ව ඔවුන් පැමිණි රටවලට නැවත පිටුවහල් නොකිරීම පිළිබඳ ප්‍රතිපත්තිය සපුරා උල්ලංඝනය කිරීමකි.

එමෙන්ම සරණාගතයන් සහ තාවකාලිකව රැඳීසිටීම අපේක්ෂාවෙන් එන පුද්ගලයන්ට අවශ්‍ය පහසුකම් සැලසීමේ එක්සත් ජාතීන්ගේ සරණාගතයන් පිළිබඳ මහකොමසාරිස් කාර්යාලයේ න්‍යායපත්‍රය ක්‍රියාත්මක කිරීමට ශ්‍රී ලංකා රජය විසින් කැප වී ක්‍රියා කළ යුතු බව පෙන්වාදෙන, 2005 දී ශ්‍රී ලංකා රජය සහ එක්සත් ජාතීන්ගේ සරණාගතයන් පිළිබඳ මහකොමසාරිස් කාර්යාලය අතර ඇතිකරගත් අවබෝධතා ගිවිසුම ද, සරණාගතයන් පිළිබඳ මහකොමසාරිස් කාර්යාලය ට තාවකාලික රැඳීසිටින්නන් සඳහා “බාධා රහිත ප්‍රවේශයක්” තහවුරු කළ යුතු බව එහි විශේෂයෙන් සඳහන් කර ඇති 4 වන වගන්තිය ද, මින් බරපතල ලෙස උල්ලංඝනය වේ. කෙසේ වුවද, ඉහත කී අවස්ථාවල දී එම සරණාගතයන්ට එක්සත් ජාතීන්ගේ සරණාගතයන් පිළිබඳ මහකොමසාරිස් කාර්යාලය සමඟ සම්බන්ධ වීමේ අවස්ථාව අහිමි කර තිබුණි.

ඉහත කී තාවකාලික රැඳීසිටින්නන් ගැන වූ එ.ජා. සරණාගතයන් පිළිබඳ මහකොමසාරිස් කාර්යාලයේ න්‍යායපත්‍රය සම්බන්ධ අවබෝධතා ගිවිසුමේ ලක්ෂණ 2006 වසරේ ජූනි මස 01 වැනි දින සිට බලපැවැත්වෙන පරිදි එම වසරේම මැයි මස 30 වැනි දින ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ විදේශ අමාත්‍යාංශය සහ එ.ජා. සරණාගතයන් පිළිබඳ මහකොමසාරිස් කාර්යාලය අතර අත්සන් කළ යොමුකිරීම් අනුදේශ අනුසාරයෙන් වැඩිදුරටත් විස්තර කෙරිණි. යොමුකිරීම් අනුදේශවල 5 (a) වගන්තියට අනුව, තාවකාලික රැඳීසිටීමේ අරමුණින් පැමිණෙන අය සඳහා උපදේශන සැසියක් පැවැත්වීමට එ.ජා. සරණාගතයන් පිළිබඳ මහකොමසාරිස් කාර්යාලයට අවස්ථාව ඇති අතර, ඉන්පසු ඔවුන්ව සැලකිල්ලට ලක්විය යුතු පුද්ගලයන් ලෙස ලියාපදිංචි කරගෙන, සති 2කට බලපැවැත්වෙන තාවකාලික රැඳීසිටීම සඳහා වූ සහතිකයක් නිකුත් කළ යුතු ය. යොමුකිරීම් අනුදේශවල 5 (b) වගන්තියට අනුව, ජාතික ආරක්ෂාව, මහජන සාමය සහ ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ ජාත්‍යන්තර බැඳීම් යන කරුණු මත, තාවකාලික රැඳීසිටීම සඳහා වූ සහතිකය එ.ජා. සරණාගතයන් පිළිබඳ මහකොමසාරිස් කාර්යාලය විසින් නිකුත් කර එය ආගමන හා විගමන දෙපාර්තමේන්තුවට යොමුකිරීමෙන් පසු, යම් පුද්ගලයන් ශ්‍රී ලංකාවට ඇතුළත් කරගැනීමට එරෙහිව ආගමන හා විගමන දෙපාර්තමේන්තුව විසින් එ.ජා. සරණාගතයන් පිළිබඳ මහකොමසාරිස් කාර්යාලය වෙත විරෝධතා ගොනු කළ හැක. එමෙන්ම, යොමුකිරීම් අනුදේශයන්ට අනුව, මේ සිද්ධිය සම්බන්ධයෙන් සාකච්ඡා කිරීම පිණිස ආගමන – විගමන දෙපාර්තමේන්තුව, විදේශ කටයුතු අමාත්‍යාංශය සහ ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ එ.ජා. සරණාගතයන් පිළිබඳ මහකොමසාරිස් කාර්යාලය අතර රැස්වීමක් පැවැත්විය යුතුව තිබුනද, අදාළ පවුල් දෙක සම්බන්ධයෙන් නම් මේ කිසිදු ක්‍රියාවලියක් අනුගමනය කෙරුණේ නැත.

රඳවා තබාගත් කාලය අතරතුර එම  පවුල්වලට සලකා තිබුනේ ඉතා අකාරුණික ලෙසිනි. උණ රෝගයෙන් සහ උදරයේ වේදනාවෙන් පීඩා විඳිමින් සිටි අහ්මදී පවුලේ කාන්තාවක ප්‍රතිකාර සඳහා රෝහලකට ඇතුළත් කරන ලෙසට කළ ඉල්ලීම් නොසලකා හරින ලද අතර, ගුවන්තොටුපළේ දී ඇයට යම් තරමකට වෛද්‍ය ප්‍රතිකාර ලබා දී තිබුණි. අසනීපයෙන් පෙළුණු මේ කාන්තාව දරුණු ලෙස ආතතියට හා කම්පනයට පත්ව සිටි අතර, ඉංග්‍රීසි කතා කළ නොහැකි ඇයව ඇගේ සැමියාගෙන් ද වෙන්කර තබන ලද බව ද වාර්තා වේ. ගුවන්යානයට නැගීම දැඩිව ප්‍රතික්ෂේප කරමින්, තමන්ව පිටුවහල් නොකරන ලෙස ආයාචනා කළ ක්‍රිස්තියානි ආගමික පවුල  ගුවන්යානයට බලහත්කාරයෙන් ඇදගෙන ගොස් තිබුණි.

අසනීප තත්ත්වයෙන් පෙළුණු, ගුවන්යානයට නැගීම ප්‍රතික්ෂේප කළ පුද්ගලයන්ව අදාළ ගුවන් ගමන සඳහා ගුවන්යානයට නංවාගැනීම මගින් ශ්‍රී ලංකා ගුවන් සේවයේ අපසහායකත්වය ද මේ අමානුෂික දුක්ඛාන්තයට දායක වී තිබුණු බව පැහැදිලිව පෙනී යයි. ඔවුන්ව රඳවා තබාගන්නා ලද්දේ බලහත්කාරයෙන් වීම සහ ශ්‍රී ලංකා රජය විසින් පිටුවහල් කිරීම සඳහා ගුවන්යානයට නංවා තිබීම යන සාධක පසෙක ලා, රඳවා තබා සිටි දින 2ක කාලය සඳහා ඇමරිකානු ඩොලර් 220ක් ගෙවන මෙන් ද අහ්මදී පවුලට බලකර තිබුණි.

යළි පාකිස්තානයට යාමෙන් පසු, එම අහ්මදි පවුල නැවත තර්ජනවලට මුහුණ දෙමින් සිටියි. ඔවුන්ට අනුව, ප්‍රදේශයේ සුන්නි මුස්ලිම් කණ්ඩායමක්, රට හැරදා යාමට ඔවුන් ගත් උත්සාහය ගැන පවසමින්, ඔවුන්ට පාඩමක් ලෙස ආගමික අපහාස චෝදනා මත රැඳවුම් භාරයට ගන්නා බවටත්, ඔවුන්ගේ දේපළ බලහත්කාරයෙන් පවරාගන්නා බවටත් ඔවුන්ට තර්ජනය කර තිබේ.

තාවකාලික රැඳීසිටින්නන් සහ සරණාගතයන් ශ්‍රී ලංකාවට පැමිණෙන්නේ ඇමරිකා එක්සත් ජනපදය, කැනඩාව වැනි රටවල ස්ථිර පදිංචිය ලැබෙනතුරු මෙහි වාසය කිරීමට යි. ශ්‍රී ලංකාව තුළ ඔවුන්ගේ වාසය ද ඉතා අසීරු ය.රජය විසින් ඔවුන්ට මෙහි රැකියා කිරීම තහනම් කර ඇති අතර, ළමුන් සඳහා අධ්‍යාපනය ලැබීමේ පහසුකම් හෝ ආහාර, නවාතැන් පහසුකම් ද ලබාදෙන්නේ නැත. මේ පිරිසෙන් 2/3කට වැඩි ප්‍රමාණයක් පාස්කු ඉරිදා බෝම්බ ප්‍රහාරවලින් පසු රටෙන් පිටමං කළ අතර, සමහරු පහරදීම් සහ තර්ජනය කිරීම්වලට ද ලක්විය. කෙසේ වුවත්, ඒ තත්ත්වය පසුගිය මාස කිහිපයේ දී ක්‍රම ක්‍රමයෙන් හොඳ අතට හැරෙමින් පවතියි.

එක්සත් ජාතීන්ගේ සංවිධානය 2014 වසරේ දී ශ්‍රී ලංකාවෙන් සරණාගතයන් පිටුවහල් කිරීමට විරුද්ධ විය. ඔවුන් දැන් කළ යුත්තේ ද එය යි. එමෙන්ම පෙර කී අවබෝධතා ගිවිසුම, යොමුකිරීම් අනුදේශ සහ සරණාගතයන්ව ඔවුන් පැමිණි රටවලට නැවත පිටුවහල් නොකිරීම පිළිබඳ ප්‍රතිපත්තිය යනාදියට නිසි ගරුත්වය ලබාදෙමින් කටයුතු කිරීමට ද ශ්‍රී ලංකා රජය පෙළඹවිය යුතු ය. ඡන්දදායකයන් නොවූවත්, සරණාගතයන් ද මනුෂ්‍යයෝ ය. දේශපාලකයන්, දේශපාලන පක්ෂ සහ ශ්‍රී ලාංකික පුරවැසියන් ලෙස අපි ඔවුන්ව ප්‍රතික්ෂේප කළ නොයුතු අතර, තාවකාලිකව මෙහි රැඳීසිටීමේ අරමුණින් මෙහි පැමිණෙන ඔවුන්ව සාදරයෙන් පිළිගෙන, අනුග්‍රහය සහ රැකවරණය සලසා දිය යුතු ය.

සංස්කාරක සටහන : ලියුම්කරු විසින් 2019 ඔක්තෝබර් 30 වැනි දා මුල්වරට Groundviews වෙබ් අඩවියේ මෙම ලිපිය ‘Sri Lanka resumes deportation of asylum seekers’ යනුවෙන් ඉංග්‍රිසි භාෂාවෙන් පළ කොට තිබේ.

Sri Lanka resumes deportation of asylum seekers

First published at https://groundviews.org/2019/10/31/sri-lanka-resumes-deportation-of-asylum-seekers/ on 31st October 2019

“Please save my family, please” was the message I received from a Pakistani friend last weekend. It was about her family of seven, including 3 children, who had fled Pakistan after facing persecution as Christians. They had arrived at the Katunayake airport on the morning of 25th October, seeking safety, but was detained and deported back by the Sri Lankan Immigration on the night of 28th October.

“Can anybody help us” was also a message I got in the weekend – from a Pakistani Ahmadi family, who had also fled persecution in Pakistan and come to Sri Lanka seeking safety. But they too were deported back.

In response to their desperate appeals, I contacted the head of UNHCR in Sri Lanka, the UN Resident Coordinator, Human Rights Commission. Despite their efforts, the two families were deported. Through friends, I also contacted government politicians, including the Prime Minister. The answers I got was they are busy with election campaigns, and helping these families might harm prospects of their candidates. Clearly, electoral campaigners mattered more than desperate pleas of two families who had come to Sri Lanka to save their lives.

I was also informed that the policy of the government is to deport asylum seekers. That there have been others who have been deported.

Both these families deported had applied for asylum to UNHCR Sri Lanka while being detained at the airport. Deporting them is a blatant violation of the principle of non-refoulment.

It is also a violation of the 2005 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the government of Sri Lanka and UNHCR, where the government has committed to facilitate UNHCR’s mandate in favour of asylum seekers and refugees, with article 4 of the MoU assuring UNHCR of “unimpeded access” towards asylum seekers. But in these cases, the asylum seekers were denied access to UNHCR.

Aspects in this MoU related to UNHCR’s mandate on asylum seekers was further elaborated through a Terms of Reference (ToR) signed between the Sri Lankan Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and UNHCR on 30th May 2006 and effective from 1st June 2006. Article 5 (a) of the ToR provides for UNHCR to have a counselling session with asylum seekers, and then register asylum seekers as persons of concern and issue temporary asylum certificates valid for 2 weeks. Article 5 (b) of the ToR provides that Department of Immigration and Emigration may submit any objections regarding admission of any individuals to Sri Lanka to UNHCR, taking into consideration national security, public order or Sri Lanka’s international commitments, after the temporary asylum certificate has been issued and submitted to them by UNHCR. In this case, based on the ToR, there has to be a meeting between the Immigration, MFA and UNHCR to discuss the case. None of these procedures were followed in terms of the above two families.

The families were treated very badly while in detention. The Ahmadi lady had fever and stomach pains and were denied requests to be admitted to hospital, though some medical care was provided at the airport. This sick lady, who was depressed, severely traumatized and unable to communicate in English, was separated from her husband. The Christian family, was forcibly dragged to the flight, even as they were pleading not to be deported and refusing to board a flight.

Sri Lankan Airlines appears to be also complicit in this inhuman tragedy, boarding persons who are sick and refusing to be on the flight. They had compelled the Ahmadi families to pay USD 220 for the two days they were detained – despite the fact that they were forcibly detained and put on a flight back from the Sri Lankan government.

Since going back, the Ahmadi family had faced fresh threats. According to them, a local Sunni Muslim mob had referred to their attempt to leave the country and told they will be taught a lesson, including getting them detained on blasphemy charges and grabbing their properties.

Asylum seekers and refugees come to live in Sri Lanka temporary, till they find permanent resettlement in countries like USA and Canada. Their lives in Sri Lanka are also difficult – the government doesn’t allow them to work and don’t provide education for children, food or housing. About 2/3 were evicted after the Easter Sunday bombings, some were beaten and threatened, and its only in last few months they are slowly recovering.

In 2014, the UN opposed the deportation of asylum seekers from Sri Lanka. They should do the same now, and try persuade the Sri Lankan government to honour the MOU, TOR and principle of non-refoulment. Asylum seekers and refugees are not voters, but they are human beings. Politicians, political parties and as Sri Lankan citizens, we must not turn our backs on them, but welcome them, support and care for them when they come to us seeking temporary refuge.

 

දින 900 ක් පුරා විරෝධතා: තවමත් සත්‍යය සහ යුක්තිය සොයා යමින්

First published on 9th Sept. 2019 at https://www.vikalpa.org/?p=35684

බලහත්කාරයෙන් අතුරුදන් කිරීමේ වින්දිතයන්ගේ අන්තර්ජාතික දිනය අගෝස්තු 30 වැනි දින ට යෙදී තිබිණි. රජයේ සංඛ්‍යාලේඛනවල ට අනුව ශ්‍රී ලංකාවෙන් වාර්තා වී ඇති අතුරුදන් වීම් පිළිබඳ ව 65,000ක ට වැඩි පැමිණිලි සංඛ්‍යාවක් ගොනු වී තිබුන ද, බහුතරයක් ශ්‍රී ලාංකිකයන්ට, බහුතරයක් මාධ්‍යයන්ට සහ ආණ්ඩුවට එය තවත් එක දවසක් පමණක්ම විය.

අතුරුදන් වූවන් ට සිදු වූයේ කුමක්ද යන්න සහ ඔවුන් සිටින්නේ කොහේද යන්න විමසීම සඳහා ක්‍රියාත්මක වන රාජ්‍ය ආයතනය වන ‘අතුරුදන් වූවන් පිළිබඳ කාර්යාලය’ විසින් කොළඹ දී සාකච්ඡාවක් සංවිධානය කර තිබුණි. එම අවස්ථාවට සහභාගී වූ අතුරුදන් වූවන්ගේ පවුල්වල සාමාජිකයන් විසින් සංවේදී මතකයන් අකුරු කොට තිබූ අතර, ඔවුන්ගේ ආදරණීයයන්ගේ ඡායාරූප ද එහි ප්‍රදර්ශනය කර තිබුණි.

කෙසේ වුවද, උතුරේ සහ නැගෙනහිර මේ තත්ත්වය වෙනස් ව පැවති අතර, දමිළ ජාතික අතුරුදන් වූවන්ගේ පවුල් මහපාරේ විරෝධතා පැවැත්වූහ. ඔවුන්ගෙන් බහුතර දෙනා දින 900ක ට අධික කාලයක් මහපාර අද්දර විරෝධතාවේ යෙදෙන අතරතුර, අතුරුදන් වූවන් පිළිබඳ කාර්යාලය, ජනාධිපතිවරයා, ඇමතිවරු, වෙනත් දේශපාලකයන් සහ නිලධාරීන් සමග සාකච්ඡා ද පැවැත්වූහ. නැගෙනහිර පළාතේ විරෝධතාව කල්මුණේ හි දී පැවති අතර, උතුරු පළාතේ විරෝධතාව ඕමන්තෙයි හි දී පැවැත්විණි. ඕමන්තෙයි හි පැවති විරෝධතාව ට කොළඹින් මා හා තවත් මිතුරන් කිහිපදෙනෙක් සහභාගී වූ අතර, ඒ අතර සිය සැමියා හා පුතුන් අතුරුදන් වූ මුස්ලිම් හා සිංහල ජාතික කාන්තාවන් දෙදෙනෙක් ද විය. එහි සිටි පවුල් මා හා පැවසුවේ ඔවුන් විරෝධතාව සඳහා ඕමන්තෙයි තෝරාගැනීම ට විශේෂ හේතුවක් ඇති බව යි.

ඔවුන්ට අනුව, ඔවුන්ගේ ඥාතීන් යුද්ධයේ අවසාන කාලයේ හමුදාව විසින් කැඳවාගෙන යාමෙන් පසු අතුරුදන් වූ අය වූහ. අතුරුදන් වූවන්ගේ කාර්යාලයේ සාමාජිකයන් අතුරින් පවුලේ සාමාජිකයෙක් අතුරුදන් වීමට ලක් වූ එකම සාමාජිකාව වන, මඩකලපුවෙන් පැමිණි ජෙයදීපා පුණ්‍යමූර්ති නම් දමිළ ජාතික කාන්තාව විසින් කොළඹ පැවැත්වුණු අතුරුදන් වූවන්ගේ කාර්යාලය මගින් සංවිධානය කළ උත්සවයේ දී ඉස්මතු කළ කරුණක් වූයේ අතුරුදන් වූවන්ගේ පවුල්වලට අවශ්‍ය වන්නේ කුමක්ද යන්න පිළිබඳව රජයේ ආයතනවලට කිසිදු අවබෝධයක් නොමැති බව යි. එමෙන්ම අතුරුදන් වූවන්ගේ පවුල්වලට අවශ්‍ය අනුකම්පාව නොව ඔවුන්ගේ ප්‍රශ්නවලට පිළිතුරු බව ද ඇය වැඩිදුරටත් පවසා සිටියා ය.

වසර ගණනක් පුරාවට හැකි පමණින් සිය දායකත්වය ලබා දී තිබියදීත්, පිළිතුරු නොලැබීම පිළිබඳව අතුරුදන් වූවන් පිළිබඳ කාර්යාලය ඇතුළු රාජ්‍ය ආයතන ගැන වූ කලකිරීම සහ විශ්වාසය කඩවීම ඕමන්තෙයි විරෝධතාවේ දී පැහැදිලිව පෙනුනි. මේ නිසා ජාත්‍යන්තර මැදිහත්වීම් අත්‍යවශ්‍ය බව ට වූ අඛණ්ඩ ඉල්ලීම් සඳහා මඟපෑදුවේය. එහෙත්, අතුරුදන් වූවන්ගේ පවුල් ඔවුන් වෙනුවෙන් පිහිටුවන ලද නවතම රාජ්‍ය ආයතනය ට එක් අවස්ථාවක් ලබා දීම සඳහා උත්සුක විය. ඔවුන් විශේෂයෙන් සඳහන් කර සිටියේ තමන් සිද්ධීන් 5ක් පිළිබඳව පසුගිය මාසයේ දී අතුරුදන් වූවන් පිළිබඳ කාර්යාලය ට තොරතුරු ලබා දුන් බවත්, තමන් ඔවුන් ගැන විශ්වාසය තබන්නේ අතුරුදන් වූවන් පිළිබඳ කාර්යාලය ඒවා ගැන සත්‍යය විමර්ශනය කරන ආකාරය මත පදනම් ව විනා ඔවුන් විසින් විවෘත කරන කාර්යාල ගණන හෝ ඔවුන් විසින් ප්‍රදානය කරන හානිපූර්ණය කොපමණද යන්න මත පදනම්ව නොවන බවයි. කෙසේ වුවද, සමහර පවුල් තවමත් පවසා සිටින්නේ තමන්ට අතුරුදන් වූවන් පිළිබඳ කාර්යාලය ගැන කිසිදු විශ්වාසයක්, හැඟීමක් නොමැති බවයි.

වසරකට පෙර, අතුරුදන් වූවන් පිළිබඳ කාර්යාලය විසින් වැදගත් නිර්දේශ කිහිපයක් නිකුත් කරන ලදී. කෙසේ වුවද, ඒවා ක්‍රියාත්මක කිරීමේ ප්‍රගතිය ඉතා සුළු බව එහි සභාපතිවරයා මේ වසරේ පිළිගත්තේය. ඔවුන් විසින් නිර්දේශ කරන ලද අන්තර්කාලීන සහන ලබාදීමවත් අවම වශයෙන් සිදු වූයේ නැත. මෙය අතුරුදන් වූවන් පිළිබඳ කාර්යාලය ට පමණක් නොව හානිපූර්ණය පිණිස වන කාර්යාලය ට ද කළු පැල්ලමකි. වින්දිතයන්ගේ අයිතීන් සුරැකීම සඳහා අවශ්‍ය පියවර ගැනීමට බලතල ලද ව්‍යවස්ථාපිත ආයතනයක් ලෙස අතුරුදන් වූවන් පිළිබඳ කාර්යාලය තම නිර්දේශ ක්‍රියාත්මක කිරීම සඳහා මීටත් වඩා ක්‍රියාකාරී ප්‍රවේශයක් ගත යුතු අතර, අතුරුදන් වූවන්ගේ පවුල් විසින් ගන්නා අධිකරණ ක්‍රියාමාර්ග, අනුස්මරණ, ලේඛනගත කිරීම් සහ වෙනත් දුක්ගැනවිලි සඳහා සෘජුවම මැදිහත් වෙමින් සහයෝගය ලබාදිය හැකි ආකාර මොනවාද යන්න සලකා බැලිය යුතු ය.

ඕමන්තෙයි විරෝධතාවේ දී මෙන්ම ඊට පෙරත්, සමහර පවුල්වල සාමාජිකයන් පවසා සිටියේ සත්‍යය සහ යුක්තිය වසන්කිරීම සඳහා හානිපූර්ණය යොදාගැනීමේ අවදානමක් ඇති බවත්, ඔවුන්ට අවශ්‍ය යුක්තිය විනා හානිපූර්ණය නොවන බවත් ය. කෙසේ වුවද, අතුරුදන් වූවන්ගේ පවුල් බහුතරයකට එවැනි අන්තර්කාලීන සහන සහ හානිපූර්ණ අත්‍යවශ්‍ය වන අතර, ඒවා ප්‍රතික්ෂේප කිරීම ඔවුන්ට අවාසිදායක විය හැක. නමුත් එක් අයිතියක් තවත් අයිතියක් සඳහා හුවමාරු කරගැනීම පිළිබඳව අපි අවධානයෙන් සිටිය යුතු ය. අතුරුදන් වූවන් පිළිබඳ කාර්යාලයේ සාමාජිකා ජෙයදීපා අවධාරණය කර ඇත්තේ නිර්දේශිත අන්තර්කාලීන සහනාධාරය (මසකට රු. 6000 බැගින්) යනු අතුරුදන් වූවන්ගේ පවුල් විසින් සත්‍යය සොයායාම වළකාලන ආකාරයේ යමක් නොවන බවයි. මගේ අත්දැකීම්වලට අනුව නම්, එවැනි සහායන් හරහා විරෝධතා, අධිකරණ නඩු සහ අන්තර්ජාතික උද්දේශනවල නියැලීම පිණිස අදාළ පවුල් ශක්තිමත් කරන අතර, ඔවුන් දානපතියන්, රාජ්‍ය නොවන සංවිධාන, කතෝලික දේවස්ථාන, විදෙස් ඩයස්පෝරාවන් ආදීන් මත යැපීම ද අවම කරයි.

අතුරුදන් වීම් පිළිබඳව ගැනෙන උත්සාහයන් ආවරණය කරමින් ආරක්ෂක හමුදාවේ අඳුරු සෙවනැල්ල පැතිර ගොස් තිබේ. මාධ්‍යවේදියෙකුගේ සහ තරුණයන් කිහිපදෙනකුගේ අතුරුදන් වීම සම්බන්ධයෙන් පසුගිය වසර කිහිපය තුළ දී හමුදා සහ නාවික හමුදා නිලධාරීන් කිහිපදෙනෙකු අත්අඩංගුවට පත්ව ඇත. එමෙන්ම පසුගිය කාලයේ ශ්‍රී ලංකා අධිකරණය විසින් හමුදාව අතුරුදන් කිරීම් සඳහා වගකිවයුතු බවට තීන්දු කර ඇති අතර, සමහර විටෙක ඒ සඳහා වරදකරුවන් කර ඇති අවස්ථාවන් ද දක්නට ලැබේ. මානව හිමිකම් කොමිසම විසින් පත්කළ විශේෂ කමිටුවක් මගින් අතුරුදන් වූ බවට සැලකෙන පුද්ගලයන් හමුදාව විසින් සිය භාරයට ගත් බව සාක්ෂි සහිතව සොයාගෙන ඇතිමුත් ඔවුන්ව නිදහස් කළ බවට හෝ වෙනත් යම් තැනක රඳවාගෙන ඇති බවට හෝ ඔවුන් ජීවතුන් අතර සිටින බවට කිසිදු සාක්ෂියක් මෙතෙක් සොයාගෙන නොමැති වග ද ද මෙහිදී විශේෂයෙන් සඳහන් කළ යුතුය. ඔවුන්ගේ ආදරණීයයන් හමුදාව විසින් රැගෙන ගිය පසුව නැවත නොදුටු බවට හෝ ඔවුන්ව අවසාන වරට දුටුවේ හමුදා කඳවුරුවල බවට අතුරුදන් වූවන්ගේ පවුල්වල අය කඳුළුබර දෙනෙතින් යුතුව හඬමින් කියා සිටින විශ්වාස කටයුතු කතා මම ද අනන්තවත් අසා ඇත්තෙමි. එහෙත් දැන්, අතුරුදන්වීම්වලට වගකිවයුතු බවට විශ්වාස කෙරෙන, හිටපු හමුදා සොල්දාදුවෙක් සහ ආරක්ෂක ලේකම්වරයෙක් ජනාධිපති අපේක්ෂකයෙක් ලෙසින් අප හමුවේ සිටී. අපරාධ සැකකරුවෙකුට ආරක්ෂාව ලබාදුන් බවට සහ අතුරුදන් වීම් පිළිබඳ ව විභාග වෙමින් පවතින අධිකරණ නඩුවක සාක්ෂිකරුවෙකුට තර්ජනය කළ බව ට චෝදනා ලබා අත්තඩංගුවට පත් වූ පුද්ගලයෙක් අප රටේ ආරක්ෂක මාණ්ඩලික ප්‍රධානියා ලෙස කටයුතු කරමින් සිටී. එමෙන්ම අපේ නවතම හමුදාපති, යටත් වූ පුද්ගලයන් සියගණනක් යටත් වීමෙන් පසු අතුරුදන් වීම සම්බන්ධව වගකිවයුතු බවට චෝදනා ලද්දෙකි.

ඕමන්තෙයි හි පැවති විරෝධතාවේ ප්‍රදර්ශනය කර තිබූ තවත් බැනරයක, සිය අතුරුදන් වූ ඥාතීන් පිළිබඳ සත්‍යය විමසන අතරතුර මරණයට පත් වූ අතුරුදන් වූවන්ගේ පවුල්වල සාමාජිකයන් 52 දෙනෙකුගේ ඡායාරූප මුද්‍රණය කර තිබිණි. යුද්ධයෙන් යන්තමින් දිවි ගලවාගත් ඔවුනට මහාපාර අද්දර විරෝධතාවේ යෙදෙමින්, බියගැන්වීම් සහ තර්ජනවලට නිර්භීතව මුහුණදෙමින්, අව්-වැසි, දුහුවිල්ල නොතකා, අවම පහසුකම් සහිතව සහ ඉතා සුළු ආහාර සලාක මත යැපෙමින් දරාගැනීමට සිදුව තිබුනේ සුළුපටු ශාරීරික සහ මානසික පීඩාවක් නොවේ.

තව බොහොමයක් දෙනා දුක්විඳිමින් සිටිති. ඔවුන්ගෙන් කීදෙනෙක් අතුරුදන් වූ තම ආදරණීය ඥාතීන්ට සිදු වූයේ කුමක්ද යන්න නොදැනම මරණය වැළඳගනීවී ද? අතුරුදන් වීම් සම්බන්ධ දැඩි නීතිමය තහනම් සහ ඒ පිළිබඳ වන අතිශය දේශපාලනික ස්වභාවයක් තිබුන ද, අතුරුදන් කිරීම් පිළිබඳ කතිකාවේ වැදගත්ම ස්ථානයක් ලැබිය යුත්තේ එම දුක්ඛාන්තයේ ඇති අතිශය පුද්ගලික ස්වභාවය සහ එහි අර්බුදකාරී තත්ත්වය සඳහා ය. මරණයට පත් වූ 52 දෙනාගේ සහ අනෙක් අයගේ නොනවතින අරගලය නිෂ්ඵල ව්‍යායාමයක් බවට පත්නොවිය යුතු අතර, ඒ සඳහා ඔවුන් ට ශ්‍රී ලාංකිකයන්ගේ සහ අනෙකුත් යහපත් ප්‍රාර්ථනාවන් ඇති මිනිසුන්ගේ සහයෝගය වැඩි වැඩියෙන් අත්‍යවශ්‍ය වේ.

(2019 සැප්තැම්බර් මස 01 වැනි දා ද සන්ඩේ ඔබ්සර්වර් පුවත්පතේ පළ වූ රුකී ප්‍රනාන්දු විසින් රචිත ලිපියක සිංහල පරිවර්තනයකි.)

900 days of protests: Still searching for truth and justice

First published at http://www.sundayobserver.lk/2019/09/01/opinion/900-days-protests-still-searching-truth-and-justice on 1st Sept. 2019

August 30 was the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances. Despite Government figures indicating more than 65,000 complaints of disappearances in Sri Lanka, for most Sri Lankans, most media and the Government, it was just another day.

The Office on Missing Persons (OMP), the state institution responsible for tracing the fate and the whereabouts of disappeared persons organized a discussion in Colombo. Families of the disappeared had written moving memories and placed photos of their loved ones at the event.

In the North and the East, Tamil families of the disappeared took to the streets. Many of them had been at roadside protests for more than 900 days, engaged in discussions with the OMP, the President, Ministers, other politicians and officials. There was one protest in Kalmunai in the East and another in Omanthai in the North. I joined the one in Omanthai with some friends from Colombo, including a Sinhalese and a Muslim, women whose husbands and sons had disappeared. The families told me they chose Omanthai for its significance – according to them, their relatives had disappeared on the last days of the war, after being taken away by the military.

At the OMP event in Colombo, Jeyatheepa Punniyamoorthy, a Tamil woman from Batticaloa and the only member of the OMP who had a family member disappeared, highlighted that state institutions didn’t realize what they (families) wanted, and that families of disappeared didn’t want pity, they just wanted answers.

At the Omanthai protest, frustration and lack of faith in state institutions, including the OMP, were strong, based on a history of engaging and not getting answers. This led to continued demands of international involvement. But the families were still willing to give the latest state institution a chance – they highlighted that they had presented details of five cases to the OMP last month and that their trust in the OMP would be based on how the OMP finds the truth about these, rather than the number of offices opened or reparations awarded. Some families still insist that they don’t feel the OMP is their office.

A year ago, the OMP issued some important recommendations. This year, its Chair admitted that there had been little progress in implementation. Even the disbursement of interim relief that they had recommended had not commenced. This is ominous, not just for the OMP, but also for the Office of Reparations. As a statuary institution mandated to take measures to protect the rights of victims, the OMP may have to adopt a more activist approach to have their recommendations implemented, and consider ways of intervening directly to support the initiatives of families in court cases, memorization, documentation and other agitations.

At the Omanthai protest, and even before, some family members shared their feelings that reparations may be used to sidestep truth and justice, and said they want justice, and not reparations. However, many families of the disappeared desperately need interim relief and reparations and it would be a pity to reject them that. Trading off one right over the other is something we should be careful about. OMP member Jeyatheepa had said the interim relief (Rs. 6,000 per month) recommended by the OMP is not something to deter families from finding the truth. In my experience, such assistance could strengthen the family’s struggles such as protests, court cases, and international advocacy and make them less dependent on donors, NGOs, churches, diaspora, etc.

The dark shadow of the military hangs over the efforts to address disappearances in Sri Lanka. In the last few years, Army and Navy personnel have been arrested in relation to the disappearance of a journalist and some youth. In the more distant past, the Sri Lankan courts have determined the military to be responsible for disappearances and even convicted some. A special committee of the Human Rights Commission has found evidence of disappeared persons having been taken into custody by the army and no evidence of them being released or detained elsewhere or that they are alive. I have also heard crying family members narrate compelling stories of how their loved ones had disappeared after being taken away by the military or were last seen at military camps. And now, we have a former soldier and defence secretary as a presidential candidate who is widely believed to be behind disappearances. We have a Chief of Defence Staff who had been arrested after being accused of harbouring a suspect and threatening a witness in a pending court case related to disappearances. And an Army Commander who is implicated in disappearances of hundreds after surrendering.

The Omanthai protest had a banner with 52 photos of family members that had passed away while searching for truth. The gruelling days at roadside protests, braving intimidation, the sun, the rain and dust, with meagre meals and facilities would have had to bear a heavy physical and emotional cost, who had barely survived the war.

Many others are ailing – how many of them would pass away without knowing what happened to their disappeared family members? Despite the strict legal prohibitions and immensely political nature of disappearances, it’s the deeply personal nature of the tragedy and struggles that must be central to the discourse on disappearances. The struggles of the 52 who had passed away and others continuing must not be in vain and they need more support from all Sri Lankans and people of goodwill.

මරණ දඬුවම: අධිකරණමය ඝාතන සඳහා වන අවසර පත්‍රය

First published on Anidda newspaper of 7th July 2019 and then at https://www.vikalpa.org/?p=35292 also on 7th July 2019

පසුගිය වසරේ ඔක්තෝම්බර් 02 වන දා ඉරානය විසින් සෙයිනබ් සෙකාන්වාද් නමැති 24 හැවිරිදි කාන්තාවක් මරණ දඬුවමට පැමිණෙව්වේ ඇය සිය ළමා කාලයේ සිදු කළැයි කියා චෝදනා එල්ල වූ වරදක් සම්බන්ධයෙනි. ජාත්‍යන්තර නීතිය යටතේ ඇයව මරණ දඬුවමෙන් නිදහස් කළ යුතුව තිබිණි. ඇය අනෙකුත් බොහෝ ළමා මනාලියන් මෙන්ම ස්ත්‍රී-පුරුෂ සමාජභාවය පදනම් කර ගත් ප්‍රචණ්ඩත්වයෙන් දිවි බේරාගත් අයෙකු විය. දුප්පත් සහ ගතානුගතික පවුලක උපන් ඇය ව වයස අවුරුදු 15දී විවාහ කර දී තිබුනේ හිංසාකාරී සහ ප්‍රචණ්ඩකාරී පිරිමියෙකුට ය. තමාව නැවත නැවතත් දූෂණයට ලක්කළ තම සැමියාගෙන් සහ මස්සිනාගෙන් තමාව ආරක්ෂා කර දෙන ලෙස දෙමාපියන් සහ අදාළ බලධාරීන්ගෙන් ඇය අයැද සිටි නමුත් ඒවාට ඇහුම්කන්දීමක් සිදුනොවීය.  වයස අවුරුදු 17දී ඇය ඇගේ සැමියා මරණයට පත්කොට තිබුණ අතර පොලිසියේ දරුණු වධහිංසා හමුවේ සෙයිනබ් තමා එම අපරාධය කළ බවට පාපොච්චාරණය කළාය. අවසානයේ ඇය වෙනුවෙන් නීතීඥවරියක පත්කළ පසු නඩු විභාගයේදී තමා පෙර කළ පාපොච්චාරණය ඉල්ලා අස්කරගත්ත ද, ඒ වනවිට ඇය ඉතා ප්‍රමාද විය: ඇයට මරණ දඬුවම නියම කෙරිණ.

ඇලිස් නුන්ගු තම හිංසාකාරී සැමියාගේ බීමත් ප්‍රහාරවලින් තමා සහ තම මහලු මව බේරාගැනීම ට උත්සාහ කරන අතරතුර ඔහුව මරණයට පත්කිරීම නිසා මරණ දඬුවමට නියම කෙරුණ මලාවියානු කාන්තාවකි. ඇයට මරණ දඬුවම නියම වීමට පෙර වසර ගණනාවක් තිස්සේ ඇය දරා ගත් අධික හිංසාවන් ගැන අවධානය යොමු කළ අධිකරණය අවසානයේ 2015 දී ඇයව වහාම නිදහස් කරන්නට නියෝග කරන ලදී.  HIV ආසාදිතව, අනුකම්පා විරහිත ජීවන තත්ත්වයන් යටතේ සහ ආහාර හිඟකමින් පීඩා විදිමින් ඇයට මරණ දඬුවමට කැප ලැයිස්තුවේ වසර 12ක් පුරා කල්මරන්නට සිදුව තිබිණි. නිදහස් වීමෙන් සති කිහිපයකට පසුව තම මව සමීපයේ දී ඇලිස් මියගියා ය.

ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ මරණ දඬුවමට නියම කෙරුණ ලැයිස්තුවේ කාන්තාවන් සිටිය ද එසේ මරණ දඬුවමට මුහුණදෙන ඔවුන්ගේ ස්ත්‍රී පුරුෂ සමාජභාවය මත පදනම් වූ විවිධ මාන ගැන එතරම් තොරතුරු සොයාගැනීමට නොහැක. නමුත් අන්තර්ජාතික පර්යේෂණ පෙන්නුම් කරන ආකාරයට මරණ දඬුවමට ලක් කෙරෙන කාන්තාවන් ස්ත්‍රී පුරුෂ සමාජභාවය පිළිබඳ අගතිගාමී අදහස්වල බහුවිධ ආකාරයේ ගොදුරු බවට පත්වේ. ස්ත්‍රී පුරුෂ සමාජභාවය මත පදනම් වූ සමාජ සම්මතයන් කඩ කරන බවට පෙනී යන කාන්තාවන් වැඩි වශයෙන් මරණ දඬුවම ලැබීමට ඉඩ ඇති අතර, මිනීමැරීමේ අපරාධය සිදුකිරීම නිසා මරණ දඬුවමට නියම කෙරෙන බොහොමයක් කාන්තාවන් නිතරම පාහේ ස්ත්‍රී පුරුෂ සමාජභාවය මත පදනම් වූ ප්‍රචණ්ඩත්වය යන සන්දර්භය තුල තම පවුලේ සාමාජිකයින් මරා දැමීම සම්බන්ධව දඬුවම් ලැබූවන් ය. උදාහරණයක් ලෙස ජෝර්දානයේ මරණ දඬුවම හිමි කාන්තාවන් 16ක් අතුරෙන් එක්කෙනෙක් හැර අන් සියල්ලන්ම වරදකාරියන් කෙරුණේ හිංසාව පිණිස විභවයක් නිර්මාණය කරන සම්ප්‍රදායික බලයක් දරාසිටින සැමියෙකු, පියෙකු හෝ නැන්දම්මා කෙනෙකු වැනි පවුලේ සමීප සාමාජිකයෙකු මරාදැමීම නිසා ය.

පසුගිය ජුනි 14 වෙනිදා ඇමෙරිකා එක්සත් ජනපදයේ චාල්ස් රේ ෆින්ච් නමැත්තා සියලු චෝදනාවලින් නිදොස් කොට නිදහස් කෙරුණේ මරණ දඬුවම නියම කර වසර 43කට අනතුරුව ය. මේ වසරේම පෙර අවස්ථාවක, ඇමෙරිකා එක්සත් ජනපදයේ ක්ලිෆර්ඩ් විලියම්ස් නමැත්තා එසේ චෝදනාවලින් නිදහස් කෙරුණේ වසර 42කට පසුව ය. 1973 වසරේ පටන් පුද්ගලයින් 10 දෙනෙකු නිදොස් කොට නිදහස් කිරීම සඳහා වසර 30කට වඩා බැගින් කල් ගතව ඇත. ඔවුන් සියල්ලන්ම කළු ජාතිකයින් වූහ. එරට වසර 36ක් පුරා වාර්ෂිකව නිදොස් කොට නිදහස්වීම් ලැබූ පුද්ගලයින්ගේ සාමාන්‍ය අගය 4කට වැඩි අගයක පවතිද්දී එසේ නිදහස් වූ ලැයිස්තුවේ පිළිවෙළින් 165වෙනි සහ 166වෙනි පුද්ගලයින් වූවේ විලියම්ස් සහ ෆින්ච් ය. 2019 ජුනි 20 වන දින එම නිදහස් වීම සිදු වූයේ එරට 1500 වන පුද්ගලයා මරණ දඬුවම යටතේ මරා දැමීම සිදුවීමට ඉතා ආසන්නයේය.

 අධිකරණමය ඝාතන සඳහා ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ නව අවසරය

අවසන් වරට ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ මරණ දඬුවම ක්‍රියාත්මක කිරීම 1976 දී සිදු වී ඇති අතර එදා පටන් මරණ දඬුවම යොදාගැනීම සඳහා තාවකාලික තහනමක්  පැවත ඇත. අප නීතියේ මරණ දඬුවම සඳහා ප්‍රතිපාදන පැවතීම සහ අධිකරණය විසින් එසේ මරණ දඬුවම සඳහා නියම කිරීම් නිතිපතා සිදුවුවද 1976න් පසු සිටි ජනාධිපතිවරු මරණ දඬුවම සඳහා අවශ්‍ය වරෙන්තුව අත්සන් නොකළහ.

නමුත් වධහිංසාවට ගොදුරුවූවන් වෙනුවෙන් සහයෝගය දක්වන අන්තර්ජාතික දිනය යෙදුනු පසුගිය ජුනි 26 වෙනිදා මාධ්‍ය විසින් ප්‍රකාශ කළේ ජනාධිපති මෛත්‍රීපාල සිරිසේන වසර 43ක් පුරා ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ පෙර ජනාධිපතිවරුන් පවත්වාගෙන ආ තාවකාලික තහනම ඉවත්කරමින් කෲර, අමානුෂික සහ අවමන් සහගත දඬුවමක් වන මරණ දඬුවම නැවත ගෙන ඒමට කටයුතු කරන බවයි. පසුගිය වසර කිහිපය පුරා අධිකරණයෙන් බලාත්මක නොකෙරුනු ඝාතන සම්බන්ධව අපකීර්තියට පත් ශ්‍රී ලංකාව දැන් සිටින්නේ අධිකරණය විසින් බලාත්මක කරන ඝාතන සම්බන්ධයෙන් අපකීර්තියට පත්වීමට ඉතා ආසන්නයේය.

මරණ වරෙන්තුව සඳහා අත්සන් කෙරුණ පුද්ගලයින් 4 දෙනා කවුරුන්දැයි තවමත් නිවේදනය කොට නැත. මේ වසරේ ආරම්භයේදී මරණ දඬුවමට නියම වුණ ලැයිස්තුවේ නම් 1299ක් විය. ඔවුන් සියලුදෙනාත්, ඔවුන්ගේ පවුල්වල සාමාජික සාමාජිකාවනුත් ඔවුන් හෝ ඔවුන්ගේ ආදරණීයයන් එම පළමු නම් 4ට අයත්දැ’යි සහ ඔවුන්ගේ වාරය කොයි මොහොතේ පැමිණේදැයි බලවත් වේදනාවෙන් සහ කම්පනයෙන් සිටිනවා විය යුතුය. බන්ධනාගාර නිලධාරීන් උපුටා දක්වමින් මාධ්‍ය විසින් කියා සිටියේ මරණ දඬුවමට නියමව ඇති පුද්ගලයින් ආතතියට පත්ව, ආහාර නොගනිමින් සහ ක්ලාන්ත ගතියෙන් පෙළෙමින් කල් ගතකරන බවයි.

මරණ දඬුවමට විරුද්ධ විය යුත්තේ ඇයි ?

මරණ දඬුවම යනු නැවත හැරවිය නොහැකි වර්ගයේ දඬුවමකි. එසේ දඬුවම පැමිණවීමෙන් අනතුරුව මතුවෙන නව සාක්ෂි සලකා බැලීමට අවකාශයක් එය විසින් ලබා නොදෙන නිසාය. උදාහරණයක් ලෙස, නව තාක්ෂණය තුළින් සාක්ෂි විමසා බැලූ කල, යමෙකු වැරැදි විනිශ්චයක් හරහා අයුතු ලෙස වැරදිකරුවෙකු කර ඇතැයි පෙනී යා හැක. එසේ අයුතු ලෙස වරදකරුවෙකු වූ බව නව සාක්ෂි මගින් සනාථ වී දශක කිහිපයකට පසුව මරණ දඬුවමෙන් නිදහස් වුණ මිනිසුන් පිළිබඳව සිද්ධි ගණනාවක් ලොව පුරා වාර්තා වී ඇත. ශ්‍රී ලංකා මානව හිමිකම් කොමිසම පෙන්වා දෙන ආකාරයට ඇමෙරිකා එක්සත් ජනපදය, කැනඩාව සහ එක්සත් රාජධානිය යන රටවල අයුතු ලෙස වරදකරුවන් කෙරුණ පුද්ගලයින් පසු අවස්ථාවලදී මරණ දඬුවමෙන් නිදහස්ව ඇත. කොමිසමට අනුව, ඇමෙරිකා එක්සත් ජනපදයේ නඩුවක දී, අපරාධ කිහිපයකට වරදකරු කෙරුණ පුද්ගලයෙකු වසර 23කට පසු නිදහස් වී ඇත්තේ, පසු කලකදී අදාළ විමර්ශන නිලධාරියා සහ විනිසුරුවරයා තම දඬුවම් පැමිණවීම යුක්තිය නිසියාකාරව ඉටු නොවීමක් ලෙස ප්‍රකාශ කිරීමෙන් අනතුරුවය.

ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ නීති පද්ධතිය තුළ නඩු පැවරීමේදී නිර්දෝෂී පුද්ගලයින් වරදකරුවන් කෙරෙන ආකාරයෙන් සිදු වන විෂමාචාර ද මානව හිමිකම් කොමිසම විසින් නිරීක්ෂණය කර ඇත. නඩු පැවරීමේදී සහ අභියාචනයේ දී දුප්පත් සහ පීඩිත මිනිසුන්ට පහසුවෙන් ළඟා කරගත නොහැකි, ගුණාත්මක බවින් යුතු නීති ආධාර හිඟකම ඇතුළත්ව අපරාධ යුක්ති පද්ධතියේ ඇති බරපතල ඌනතා විශේෂ කොටගෙන, අන් සියලු ස්ථානවල දී මෙන්ම ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ ද අයථා දඬුවම් පැමිණවීම් සිදුවිය හැක. ඒ නිසාවෙන් අයථා දඬුවම් පැමිණවීම්වලට මුහුණදීමට වඩාත් ඉඩ ඇත්තේ දුප්පතුන් ය.

එමෙන්ම මරණ දඬුවම ලබා දීම මගින් ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ හෝ ලෝකයේ වෙනත් කිසිදු රටකින් අපරාධ වළක්වා හෝ අඩු කර ඇති බවට සාක්ෂි නොමැත.

මත්ද්‍රව්‍ය ආශ්‍රිත අපරාධ ඇතුළුව අපරාධ වැළැක්වීම සම්බන්ධයෙන් ගන්නා වැඩදායී පියවර වෙත සහයෝගය ලබාදෙමින්ම, මරණ දඬුවමට විරුද්ධ වීමට හැකියාව පවතී. සිවිල් හා දේශපාලන අයිතීන් සහ ආර්ථිකමය, සමාජයීය හා සංස්කෘතික අයිතීන් යන දෙකම සියලුම දෙනා වෙනුවෙන් සහතික කරමින් අපරාධ වැළැක්වීම පිණිස ක්‍රියා කිරීම තීරණාත්මක ය. යම් බන්ධනාගාර රැඳවියන් බන්ධනාගාරගතව සිටියදී මත්ද්‍රව්‍ය ආශ්‍රිත වැරදි සිදුකරන්නේ නම්, බන්ධනාගාර තුළ මත්ද්‍රව්‍යවලට අවසර දෙන බන්ධනාගාර නිලධාරීන් වගකිවයුත්තන් කරමින් බන්ධනාගාර තුළ ආරක්ෂාව තර කළ යුත්තේ නව තාක්ෂණයේ භාවිතය ද එක්කරගනිමිනි.

අන්තර්ජාතික බැඳීම් සහ ප්‍රවණතා

මරණ දඬුවම සඳහා තාවකාලික තහනමක් ඉල්ලා සිටි එක්සත් ජාතීන්ගේ මහා මණ්ඩල යෝජනාවට එතෙක් මෙතෙක් අනුමැතිය පළ කළ වැඩිම රටවල් ගණන වූ රටවල් 121 අතරට පසුගිය දෙසැම්බර් මාසයේ ශ්‍රී ලංකාවද අයත් විය. මෙහි දී මරණ දඬුවම ඇති නිසා අපරාධ වැළකෙන බවට ඇති අදහස සම්බන්ධයෙන් ඔප්පු කළ හැකි සාක්ෂි නොමැති බව ද, මරණ දඬුවම බලාත්මක කිරීමේදී සිදු විය හැකි මොනයම් හෝ යුක්තිය නිසි ලෙස ඉටු නොවීමේ අත්වැරදීමක් ආපසු හැරවිය නොහැකි හා ප්‍රතිකර්ම නොමැති එකක් ලෙස ද හඳුනා ගන්නා ලදී. මරණ දඬුවම තහනම් කළ රටවල් දිරිමත් කෙරෙන සහ මරණ දඬුවමේ අඛණ්ඩව යෙදීම පිළිබඳව මහත් සැලකිල්ලක් දක්වන ගෝලීය ප්‍රකාශනයකට ද ශ්‍රී ලංකාව එක් විය.

ඉන් මාස 6කට පසුව දැන් ශ්‍රී ලංකාව පෙනී සිටින්නේ මරණ දඬුවම අහෝසි කිරීම වෙත ගමන් කිරීම වෙනුවට පැවති දීර්ඝතම තාවකාලික තහනම ආපසු හරවන අවස්ථාවකට ඉතා ආසන්නයේය. මත්ද්‍රව්‍ය ආශ්‍රිත වැරදි සම්බන්ධයෙන් ලබා දෙන මරණ දඬුවම ජාත්‍යන්තර නීතිය යටතේ අනීතික ඝාතන ඝණයෙහි ලා සැලකේ. එසේම එය ශ්‍රී ලංකාව ද පාර්ශ්වයක් වන සිවිල් හා දේශපාලන අයිතීන් සඳහා වන අන්තර්ජාතික ප්‍රඥප්තියේ 6 වන ව්‍යවස්ථාව මේ හරහා උල්ලංඝණය කරයි.

ඇම්නෙස්ටි ඉන්ටනැෂනල් සංවිධානයට අනුව අධිකරණය බලාත්මක කරන මරණයට පත් කිරීම් සිදු කරන සේම, මරණ දඬුවම නියම කිරීම සිදුකරන රටවල් ගණනෙහි දක්නට ඇත්තේ අඩුවීමකි. එම සංවිධානය පවසන්නේ රටවල් 20 කින් ලබාගත් දත්ත අනුව 2017 වසරේ 993ක්ව පැවති එවන් මරණයට පත්කිරීම්, 2018 වසරේ 690ක් ලෙස වාර්තා වී තිබුනි. එය 2017ට සාපේක්ෂව 31%ක අඩු වීමක් වන අතර, පසුගිය දශකයේ ඇම්නෙස්ටි සංවිධානය වාර්තා කර තිබූ අඩුම අගය ද වේ. ඇම්නෙස්ටි සංවිධානය 2017 වසරේ රටවල් 54කින් ලබාගත් දත්ත අනුව, මරණ දණ්ඩනයට නියම කිරීම් 2591ක් වාර්තා වී තිබූ අතර, එම සංඛ්‍යාවේ අඩුවීමක් පෙන්වමින් 2018 වසරේ අවම වශයෙන් එවන් නියම කිරීම් 2531ක් වාර්තා කර තිබුණි. වසර 2018හි අවසානය වන විට ලොව පුරා මිනිසුන් 19,336ක පිරිසක් මරණ දඬුවමට නියමව ඇති බවට දැනගන්නට ලැබිණ. රටවල් 170කට අධික ගණනක් මරණ දඬුවම අහෝසි කර හෝ නීතියෙන් හෝ භාවිතාවෙන් තාවකාලික තහනම් කිරීම් හඳුන්වාදෙමින් මරණ දඬුවම නැවැත්වීමට හිතකර තත්ත්වයක් ඇති කිරීමට ක්‍රියා කර ඇත. රටවල් 40කට අඩු ගණනක් මරණ දඬුවම ලබාදීමේ භාවිතාව දිගටම පවත්වා ගෙන යාම සිදුකරයි.  එක්සත් ජාතීන්ගේ සංවිධානයට අනුව 2019 මැයි 23 වන දා වන විට සිවිල් සහ දේශපාලන අයිතීන් පිළිබඳ අන්තර්ජාතික ප්‍රඥප්තියේ, මරණ දඬුවම අහෝසි කිරීම පිණිස වන 2වන වෛකල්පිත ප්‍රොටොකෝලය රටවල් 87ක් විසින් ස්ථිර කර ඇත.   ‍

ඝාතනවලට එරෙහි ආගමික ඉගැන්වීම්

කතෝලිකයෙකු ලෙස මා විශ්වාස කරන මූලික දේශනයක් වන්නේ “ඔබ (කිසිවෙකුත්) නොමැරිය යුතුය” යන්නයි. මරණ දඬුවම යනු ” කවර ආකාරයකින් සිදු කළ ද මානව ගෞරවයට නින්දා කෙරෙන අවමන් සහගත පියවරක්” ලෙසත්, “කිතුනු දහමට පටහැණි” ලෙසත් සහ මනුෂ්‍ය ජීවිතය පූජනීය බවටත්, සෘජු සහ නොවෙනස් ප්‍රතිපත්තිමය ස්ථාවරයක් ෆ්‍රැන්සිස් පාප්තුමා ගනු ලැබ ඇත. කෙසේ වෙතත් පසුගිය වසරේ ජූලි මාසයේ කොළඹ දී සිදු කළ ප්‍රකාශයක අගරදගුරු අතිඋතුම් මැල්කම් රංජිත් හිමිපාණන් කියා සිටියේ ඇතැම් අවස්ථාවල දී මරණ දඬුවම ක්‍රියාවට නැංවීම සම්බන්ධයෙන් තමාගේ සහය හිමිවෙන බවයි. ඔහු ප්‍රකාශ කළේ බිහිසුණු අපරාධ සිදුකරන්නන්ට ඔවුන්ගේ ජීවත් වීමේ අයිතිය අහිමි කළ යුතු බව සහ අධිකරණයෙන් ලබාදෙන ඕනෑම දඬුවමක් බලාත්මක කළ යුතු බව ය. කාදිනල්තුමාගේ ප්‍රකාශයෙන් සති දෙකකටත් අඩු කාලයක දී අගෝස්තු 1 වෙනිදා බිෂොප්වරුන් වෙත ලිපියක් නිකුත් කළ වතිකානුව කියා සිටියේ අහිංසක මිනිසුන්ගේ ජීවිත ආරක්ෂා කිරීමට වුව ද මරණ දඬුවම යොදා ගැනීම අනුමත නොකළ යුතු සහ අනවශ්‍ය දෙයක් ලෙසය. 2018 අගෝස්තු 9 වෙනිදා ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ බිෂොප්වරුන්ගේ සම්මේලනය මේ අනුව යමින් වතිකානුවේ ලිපිය පුළුල් ලෙස උපුටා දක්වමින් සහ ස්වකීය ප්‍රකාශයක්ද නිකුත් කරමින් පහදා සිටියේ ඔවුන් නිසැකවම මරණ දඬුවමට එරෙහි බවය. කාදිනල් රංජිත් හිමිපාණන් ද තම පෙර ස්ථාවරය වෙනස් කරමින් මෙම ප්‍රකාශයට එකඟතාව පළ කර තිබිණි.

එසේම බෞද්ධයින් බහුතරයක් වාසය කරන මේ රටෙහි බුදුදහමේ එන පළමු ශික්ෂාපදය ඝාතනවලින් වැළකී සිටීම යි.(පාණාතිපාතා වේරමණී සික්ඛාපදං සමාදියාමි)

මරණීය දඬුවම – නැතහොත් අධිකරණය විසින් බලාත්මක කරන ඝාතන, ජීවිතයේ පූජනීය බව පවත්වා ගැනෙන ආගමික හා ආධ්‍යාත්මික අගයන්ට ද, ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ අන්තර්ජාතික බැඳියාවන්වලට ද පටහැනි ය. අප එයට විරුද්ධ විය යුතු වන්නේ සිවිල් හා දේශපාලන අයිතීන් පිළිබඳ අන්තර්ජාතික ප්‍රඥප්තියට අනුකූලව  මරණ දඬුවම අහෝසි කිරීම ඉල්ලා සිටින 2 වන වෛකල්පිත ප්‍රොටොකෝලයට එකඟ වෙමින් දීර්ඝකාලීනව බලපැවැත්වෙන පරිදි මරණ දඬුවම අහෝසි කිරීමටත්, කෙටිකාලීනව බලපැවැත්වෙන තාවකාලික තහනම එලෙසින්ම පවත්වාගැනීමටත් අවධාරණයෙන් ඉල්ලා සිටිමිනි.

Death Penalty: License for Judicial Killings

First published at http://www.sundayobserver.lk/2019/06/30/news-features/death-penalty-license-judicial-killings on 30th June 2019

Last year, on October 2, Iran executed a 24-year-old woman, Zeinab Sekaanvand[. Born into a poor and conservative family, she was married at the age of 15 to a man who had turned abusive and violent. She appealed to the authorities and her family to protect her from both her husband and her brother-in-law, whom she claimed had raped her repeatedly, but her pleas went unheard. When she was still a child at 17, her husband was found dead, and she confessed to the crime under police torture. At her trial hearing – when she was finally appointed a lawyer – she retracted her confession, but it was too late: the court sentenced her to death.

Alice Nungu, was a Malawian woman who was sentenced to death after killing her abusive husband while defending herself and her elderly mother from his drunken attack. In 2015, a court heard about the intense abuse that Alice endured before sentencing, and ordered her release. She had languished on death row for over 12 years, fading from HIV, inhumane living conditions, and lack of food. Only weeks after her release, Alice died, with her mother by her side.

Research indicates that women who are sentenced to death are subjected to multiple forms of gender bias. Women who are seen as violating entrenched gender norms are more likely to receive the death penalty and most women are sentenced to death for the crime of murder, often in relation to the killing of family members and in a context of gender-based violence.

This year, in the United States of America (USA), Charles Ray Finch and Clifford Williams Jr., were exonerated 43 years and 42 years after having been sentenced to death[4]. Williams and Finch were the 165th and 166th persons respectively to be exonerated after being given the death penalty in the USA, over a period of 36 years, an average of more than four exonerations per year.

Sri Lanka’s new license for Judicial Killings

Sri Lankan judges have been handing down death sentences, with the number increasing from 96 in 2010 to 217 in 2017. However, the last execution was in 1976 and since then, there has been a moratorium on the use of death penalty.

But on June 26, the International day in support of Victims of Torture, media announced President Sirisena had brought back the death penalty, a cruel, inhumane and degrading punishment, breaking the 43 year long moratorium upheld by all Sri Lankan presidents.

The names of the four persons against whom the death warrant has been signed is yet to be announced. As of early this year, 1299 persons were reported to have been on the death row[6]. All those on the death row, and all of their families, must be in agony and trauma, not knowing whether they or their loved ones are amongst the first four to be executed or when their turn might come. Media quoted Prison officials saying most on the death row were stressed, not eating and feeling faintish after the President’s announcement.

Why say NO to the Death Penalty

The death penalty is an irreversible form of punishment which grants no space to consider new evidence that may emerge after a conviction is made, for example through new technology, indicating a wrongful conviction. As has been mentioned above, people wrongly convicted have been released from death row decades after they were put there as new evidence has shown that they were wrongfully convicted.

The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka has noted allegations of prosecutorial misconduct leading to conviction of innocents in Sri Lanka. Like everywhere else, wrongful convictions are possible in Sri Lanka, especially given the serious deficiencies in the criminal justice system, including a lack of easily accessible, quality, legal aid for the poor and vulnerable – during trial and appeal. Thus, it is the poor who are more likely to face wrongful convictions.

There is no evidence in Sri Lanka or in any part of the world that the death penalty has prevented or reduced crimes.

It is possible and necessary to oppose the death penalty and support strong measures to address crime, including drug related crimes. It is crucial to work towards prevention of crime, by guaranteeing all human rights for all – both civil and political rights and economic, social and cultural rights.

If some detainees are engaged in drug-related offences from within prison grounds, security in prisons must be strengthened, including through the use of new technology and holding prison officials accountable for allowing drugs inside prisons.

International commitments and trends

In December last year, Sri Lanka was amongst the 121 countries that endorsed a United Nations General Assembly Resolution noting that any miscarriage of justice in the implementation of the death penalty is irreversible and irreparable and that there is no conclusive evidence of the deterrent value of the death penalty. Sri Lanka also joined the collective global expression of deep concern about the continuing application of the death penalty and encouraged states which had moratoriums to maintain it. Six months later, Sri Lanka has abandoned its own moratorium, instead of progressing to abolish the death penalty.

Meanwhile, the Malaysian government is reported to have announced that it is in the process of abolishing the death penalty or scrapping the mandatory death penalty. Nepal’s 2015 constitution has prohibited any law to be made that prescribes the death penalty. Over 170 countries have either abolished the death penalty or taken a position in favour of ending executions by introducing moratorium sin law or practice. As of May 23 2019, 87 countries had ratified the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights calling for the abolishing of the death penalty.The number of countries implementing judicial executions as well as passing death sentences is on the decline. According to Amnesty International, there have been at least 690 executions in 2018, down by 31 percent from 2017 (at least 993 executions). Death sentences passed in 2018 has also declined to 2,531 in 2018 from the 2,591 reported in 2017. At least 19,336 people were known to be under the sentence of death globally at the end of 2018.

Religious teachings against killings

As a Catholic, a fundamental precept I believe in is “Thou Shall not Kill”. Pope Francis has said that the death penalty is “an inhuman measure that humiliates human dignity, in whatever form it is carried out” and that it is “contrary to the Gospel.” The Catholic Bishops Conference of Sri Lanka have unequivocally opposed the death penalty through its statement dated August 9 2018. The first precept of Buddhism is to abstain from killings (Pānātipātā veramanī sikkhāpadan samādiyāmi).

The Death Penalty – or Judicial Killings – is against Sri Lanka’s international obligations and religious and spiritual values, which uphold the sacredness of life. We must oppose the death penalty in any form – in the short term to maintain the moratorium, and in the long term to abolish the death penalty for all crimes and ratify the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which calls for the abolition of the death penalty.

Death Penalty: License for Judicial Killings

First published at https://groundviews.org/2019/06/28/death-penalty-license-for-judicial-killings/ on 28th June 2019

Last year, on October 2, Iran executed a 24-year-old woman, Zeinab Sekaanvand, who was a child at the time of her alleged offense. Under international law, she should have been excluded from the death penalty. She was also, like many child brides, a survivor of gender-based violence. Born into a poor and conservative family, she was married at the age of 15 to a man who had turned abusive and violent. She appealed to the authorities and her family to protect her from both her husband and her brother-in-law, whom she claimed had raped her repeatedly, but her pleas went unheard. When she was 17, her husband was found dead, and she confessed to the crime under police torture. At her trial hearing – when she was finally appointed a lawyer – she retracted her confession, but it was too late: the court sentenced her to death.

Alice Nungu, was a Malawian woman who was sentenced to death after killing her abusive husband while defending herself and her elderly mother from his drunken attack. In 2015, a court finally heard about the years of intense abuse that Alice endured before sentencing, and ordered her immediate release. She had languished on death row for over 12 years, fading from HIV, inhumane living conditions, and lack of food. Only weeks after her release, Alice died, with her mother by her side.

Though there are women in the death row in Sri Lanka, not much information is available about gender dimensions of those facing the death penalty. But international research indicates that women who are sentenced to death are subjected to multiple forms of gender bias. That women who are seen as violating entrenched gender norms are more likely to receive the death penalty and that most women are sentenced to death for the crime of murder, often in relation to the killing of family members and in a context of gender-based violence. In Jordan, for example, of 16 women on death row, all but one was convicted of killing a close family member who traditionally wields authority, creating the potential for abuse: a husband, a father, or a mother-in-law.

Two weeks ago, on June 14, in the United States of America (USA), Charles Ray Finch was exonerated of all charges, 43 years after he had been sent to the death row. Earlier this year, also in the USA, Clifford Williams Jr., was exonerated 42 years after having been sentenced to death. Since 1973, exonerations had taken more than 30 years each for ten persons. All of them have been black. Williams and Finch were the 165th and 166th persons respectively to be exonerated after being given the death penalty in the USA, over a period of 36 years, an average of more than 4 exonerations per year. The 166th came just before the 1500th execution on June 20, 2019.

Sri Lanka’s new license for Judicial Killings

Sri Lanka last’s execution was in 1976 and since then, there has been moratorium on the use of death penalty. Although death sentence remained in our laws and courts regularly imposed the death penalty, successive Presidents didn’t sign the death warrant.

But on June 26, the International day in support of Victims of Torture, media announced President Sirisena had brought back the death penalty, a cruel, inhumane and degrading punishment, breaking the 43 year long moratorium upheld by all Sri Lankan presidents. Sri Lanka, a country notorious for extra-judicial executions for last several decades, is on the verge of becoming notorious now for judicial executions.

The names of the four persons against whom the death warrant has been signed is yet to be announced. As of early this year, 1299 persons were reported to have been on the death row. All those on the death row, and all of their families, must be in agony and trauma, not knowing whether they or their loved ones are amongst the first four to be executed or when their turn might come. Media quoted Prison officials saying most on the death row were stressed, not eating and feeling faint.

Why say NO to the Death Penalty

The death penalty is an irreversible form of punishment which grants no space to consider new evidence that may emerge after a conviction is made, for example through new technology, indicating a wrongful conviction. As has been mentioned above, people wrongly convicted have been released from death row decades after they were put there as new evidence has shown they were wrongfully convicted. The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka has pointed out that persons wrongly convicted had been later released from the death row or prison from countries such as USA, Canada and the United Kingdom. The Commission has pointed out a case in the USA, where a convicted man was released after 23 years in prison for several crimes, and the lead investigator and the judge later had claimed his conviction was a miscarriage of justice.

The Commission has also noted alleged prosecutorial misconduct leading to conviction of innocents in Sri Lanka. Like everywhere else, wrongful convictions are possible in Sri Lanka, especially given serious deficiencies in the criminal justice system, including a lack of easily accessible, quality, legal aid for the poor and vulnerable – during trial and appeal. Thus, it is the poor that are more likely to face wrongful convictions.

There is no evidence in Sri Lanka or any part of the world that the death penalty has prevented or reduced crimes.

It is possible and necessary to oppose the death penalty and support constructive measures to address crime, including drug related crimes. It is crucial to work towards prevention of crime, by guaranteeing all human rights for all – both civil and political rights and economic, social and cultural rights. If some detainees are engaged in drug-related offenses from within prison grounds, security in prisons must be strengthened, including through the use of new technology and holding prison officials accountable for allowing drugs inside prison.

International commitments and trends

Last year December, Sri Lanka was amongst the 121 countries, the largest number ever, that endorsed a United Nations General Assembly Resolution calling for a moratorium on the Death Penalty. Sri Lanka joined 120 other countries in noting that that any miscarriage of justice in the implementation of death penalty is irreversible and irreparable and that there is no conclusive evidence of the deterrent value of the death penalty. Sri Lanka also joined the collective global expression of deep concern about the continuing application of death penalty and encouraged states which had moratoriums to maintain it. Six months later, Sri Lanka now appears to be on the verge of reversing the longest moratorium, instead of progressing to abolish death penalty. Death penalty for drug related offenses also violates article 6 of the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights, to which Sri Lanka is a party to and is considered to be unlawful killings under international law.

According to Amnesty International, the number of countries implementing judicial executions as well as passing death sentences is on the decline. Amnesty says there have been at least 690 executions in 20 countries in 2018, down by 31% from 2017 (at least 993 executions), representing the lowest number of executions that Amnesty International has recorded in the past decade. Amnesty had recorded at least 2,531 death sentences in 54 countries in 2018, a decrease from the total of 2,591 reported in 2017. At least 19,336 people were known to be under sentence of death globally at the end of 2018. Over 170 countries have either abolished the death penalty or taken a position in favour of ending executions by introducing moratorium in law or practice. Fewer than 40 countries continue to uphold the practice. According to the UN, as of 23rd May 2019, 87 countries had ratified 2nd Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights calling for the abolishing of the death penalty.

Religious teachings against killings

As a Catholic, a fundamental precept I believe in is “Though Shall not Kill”. Pope Francis has been forthright and taken a consistently principled position that human life is sacred and the death penalty is “an inhuman measure that humiliates human dignity, in whatever form it is carried out” and that it is “contrary to the Gospel.” However, last year, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the Catholic Archbishop of Colombo, in a statement issued in July, said that he supports the implementation of the death penalty in certain cases. He said perpetrators of gruesome crimes could be considered as having forfeited their own right to life, and whatever punishment was given by courts should be implemented. Less than two weeks after Cardinal Ranjith’s statement, the Vatican issued a letter to bishops on August 1 categorically stating that the death penalty is inadmissible and unnecessary even when used to protect the life of innocent people. The Catholic Bishops Conference of Sri Lanka followed this up with a statement of their own on August 9, 2018 that quoted extensively from the Vatican’s letter and made it clear that they unequivocally oppose the death penalty. Cardinal Ranjith had reversed his earlier position and signed up to this statement.

The first precept of Buddhism in this Buddhist majority country is to abstain from killings (Pāṇātipātā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi).

The Death Penalty – or Judicial Killings – is against Sri Lanka’s international obligations and religious and spiritual values, which uphold sacredness of life. We must oppose it, demanding in the short term to maintain the moratorium, and in the long term to abolish the death penalty from domestic laws and ratify the 2nd Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that calls for the abolition of the death penalty.

Read “The Solution to Drug Trafficking in Sri Lanka“. Also read more content around the death penalty here

World Refugee Day and Refugees in Sri Lanka

First published at https://groundviews.org/2019/06/19/world-refugee-day-and-refugees-in-sri-lanka/ on 19th June 2019

June 20 is World Refugee Day, coinciding with a time Sri Lanka faces its most serious refugee crisis since 2014.

Though not a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol, Sri Lanka is bound by international customary law and human rights treaty obligations – such as the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICPPED), to which Sri Lanka is a party to – to respect principle of non-refoulment, which prohibits the return of persons to a country when there are substantial grounds for believing that the person or persons would be at risk of harm. This includes risks to right to life, death penalty, torture, sexual and gender based violence, female genital mutilation, prolonged solitary confinement, denial of fair trial, degrading living conditions, lack of medical treatment etc.

The Sri Lankan government has an agreement with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) which allows UNHCR to register those seeking refugee status and carry out refugee status determination. According to UNHCR statistics, there are 862 refugees (those who have been granted refugee status) and 829 asylum seekers (those whose refugee applications are pending) in Sri Lanka as of April 30, 2019. Those who have been granted refugee status await permanent resettlement in another country. Between January to April 2019, 26 refugees had departed to Canada and United States of America for permanent resettlement, but I’m also aware of several refugees who have been stuck in Sri Lanka for several years despite being granted refugee status. These refugees come from 15 countries in South Asia, Middle East and Africa. 1,362 were from Pakistan and 200 from Afghanistan. Others were from Bangladesh, Eritrea, India, Iran, Maldives, Myanmar, Nigeria, Palestine, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia and Yemen.

The majority are Ahmadiyya Muslims, while there are also significant number of Christians and other Muslims. These communities have suffered threats, attacks and killings by extremist groups, with little to no protection from the State against these attacks. A few persecuted human rights activists, journalists, bloggers, atheists and gay persons have also sought refuge in Sri Lanka.

Life as refugees in Sri Lanka

UNHCR provides those recognised as refugees with an allowance of about Rs. 10,000 per person or Rs. 22,000 for family with two or more children, which is not enough to cover even accommodation and food to live in dignity in Sri Lanka. Asylum seekers don’t get any allowance and are left to fend for themselves, with their savings and contributions from relatives, friends and other well-wishers. Among the refugees I have met are medical doctors, journalists, lawyers, government officials, teachers, graphic designers and beauticians. But the Sri Lankan government doesn’t allow refugees to be employed legally, denying them the opportunity to be gainfully occupied and earn an income to cover the costs of their temporary stay in Sri Lanka. In desperation, some refugees had worked in shops and as construction workers, but I have been told several instances where employers had refused to pay them the agreed amounts and they were helpless in claiming what was due to them.  They end up contributing to the Sri Lankan economy by renting our rooms, houses, buying things from our shops, and spending on three-wheelers and buses.

Asylum seekers and refugees are also not absorbed into the government technical education and vocational training systems, which has the potential to help them to learn and develop skills that they could utilise in seeking employment during their stay in Sri Lanka (if allowed to do so) and their countries of resettlement. Government hospitals provide free healthcare, but sometimes refugees have faced hostility in hospitals. There is no psychiatric and psychosocial care made available to them, despite the unfamiliar circumstances they have been compelled to live in, and the trauma they have faced due to the violence and discrimination that had compelled them to leave. Despite the large number of abandoned government buildings across the country, the government doesn’t provide housing. Some landlords have been reluctant to rent rooms and houses to refugees, while others have exploited their vulnerability by charging higher prices. The children are not included in the government’s “free education” policy, and thus, many children are unable to go to school. Refugees are also not included in government programs for food and nutrition security or social security programs such as Samurdhi.

Reprisals and hostility against refugees after Easter Sunday bombings

Along with Sri Lankan Muslims, the small refugee and asylum seeker population, especially around Negombo, bore the brunt of reprisals and hostilities after the Easter Sunday bombings. Some refugees were subjected to physical violence and others faced threats of violence as about two third of the refugee population were evicted from the rooms and houses they were renting. Some house owners were sympathetic towards refugees, but were threatened by mobs and neighbours to evict the refugee families. The majority of those evicted were Pakistani Ahmadiyya Muslims and they sought shelter in two Ahmadi mosques. Others were accommodated in the garage and verandas of the Negombo Police station. Conditions in these three camps during April and May were unbearable, with many including children falling ill, due to severe congestion, lack of shelter in sun and rain, lack of toilets and sanitation facilities. They have been used to cooking for themselves and some found it difficult to adjust to Sri Lankan style food that was provided.

Appeals to the government, Christian churches, Buddhist temples, NGOs and private individuals to find better accommodation didn’t bring positive results. Two facilities run by churches and an NGO respectively were offered in April, but fell apart due to protests by Buddhist monks and others. The Governors of the Southern and Northern provinces offered to renovate facilities in their provinces, and finally, more than a hundred refugees, including children, were moved to a camp in the North in two phases, closing down the camp at the Negombo police station.  The Negombo police must be commended for accommodating, supporting and protecting about 170 refugees, by sharing their minimal facilities.

Many refugees had to leave behind their meagre belongings and basic essentials including clothes, medicine and children’s supplies. Some kind house owners had kept these safely till they could be collected, but I also heard and personally experienced situations where some house owners had acquired some of the properties, sold or disposed them.

Refugees and asylum seekers were also evicted in Kandy and suburbs of Colombo, through written and verbal notices, largely due to the instigation by police and neighbours. It took huge efforts for them to find new accommodation.

Now, nearly two months since the Easter Sunday bombings, life in the three camps remains difficult despite efforts by UNHCR, some government agencies, NGOs and well-wishers. The population in two Ahmadi mosques have decreased from about 1000 to about 700, with some having returned to their original rooms and houses and some having left for Canada and USA. During a visit to one of the camps earlier this week, I observed that facilities, like temporary accommodation and toilets, have improved compared to late April, but families have been separated for nearly two months now at two of the camps, as there are no facilities for them to stay together. Those in the camp in the North are not allowed to move out or have visitors.  In addition to the three camps, some refugees are also detained in an overcrowded detention facility.

In May, a refugee family with 4 children, who had been evicted from their home in a suburb of Colombo, travelled to Jaffna at the invitation of a host family there. The host family registered them at the police on the day of the arrival, but the next day, senior government officials opposed this. The distraught and exhausted refugee family was compelled to travel back to Colombo. But over the last month, a few Sri Lankan families and one church have come forward to host refugee families and some have started to rent their rooms and houses to refugees again.

Way forward

Supporting and protecting people terrorised in their own countries is a global challenge. Compared to about 28.5 million refugees worldwide, out of which Pakistan is hosting about 1.4 million and Bangladesh is hosting about 900,000, we have a relatively tiny refugee population of about 1700 to care for. About a million Sri Lankans have benefited and still benefit from international protection, though they also face challenges in the countries they are seeking refuge and when they try to return to Sri Lanka.

Sri Lankan politicians, religious leaders, media and civil society must try to raise awareness about refugees in Sri Lanka. That refugees, like citizens and all other foreign visitors coming for tourism, business, studies, sports etc., are subject to the laws of the land. That refugees have rarely been accused of criminal charges. That most refugees coming to Sri Lanka are minorities in their own countries who have been terrorised and had to flee to save their lives. That they are here temporarily till they find permanent resettlement. That they contribute to the Sri Lankan economy and don’t receive even basic assistance like housing, food, education, transport from the Sri Lankan government.

We need to extend maximum support to UNHCR to carry out their mandate and also develop an independent and comprehensive national mechanism to assess well-founded fears of refugees coming to us. We need to consider offering basic needs such as housing, food, employment, education and healthcare to refugees staying with us temporarily and in the long term, consider offering permanent resettlement to at least few refugee families.

We should never stoop so low as to deport, stop or discourage people terrorised in other countries coming to us seeking care, support and protection temporarily. We must welcome them warmly and feel proud that they have chosen to come to us in their time of trouble and desperation. Responding sensitively and humanely to refugees – our brothers and sisters – is a test of our laws, politics, spirituality and conscience.

May 18 and Mullivaikkaal Kanji

First published at http://www.sundayobserver.lk/2019/05/26/news-features/may-18-and-mullivaikkaal-kanji on 26th May 2019

May 18, 2019 marked the 10th anniversary of the end of the Sri Lanka civil war.

This year, perhaps due to tragedy of the Easter bombings and also coincidence with the Vesak festival, (a sacred day for Buddhists), there were no large triumphant victory parades or memorials for dead soldiers in Colombo. But there were military memorial events in the North, after the 18th – such as an event to remember fallen soldiers and policemen, organised by the Northern Governor’s office and the Ranaviru Seva (services for War Heroes) Authority, in coordination with the Security Forces Headquarters – Jaffna, on 20th May.

There had been advance plans made for civilian remembrances by Tamils in the North. But in the days leading upto May 18, organizers expressed fear and uncertainties, triggered by the questioning of some organizers by the armed forces, arrests of Jaffna university student leaders, a large number of checkpoints, and emergency regulations. But several memorial events nevertheless went ahead.

A church

On the 18th morning, I went to the Uruthirapuram Catholic church for the annual service to remember Fr. Sara – the parish priest in 2008, who accompanied his parishioners as they were displaced and cornered in Mullivaikkaal.

He experienced the fears and suffering of the last phase of the war and died on May18. Testimonies in the church both by youths and elderly persons was moving, some breaking down and crying as they recalled how they ran over dead bodies to save their lives. Those killed and injured in war and in the Easter bombings were remembered, along with Muslims and Refugees, who faced reprisal attacks and hostilities after the bombings.

There was no formal memorial event after the church service, but some individuals had brought flowers, and laid them at the two monuments outside the church – one for Fr. Sara and other for all those killed. It was a simple, solemn and local community led memorial. The main organizer, the present parish priest, was part of a small group of committed and courageous Catholic clergy who had opted to remain with the people till the end of the war, for which he was punished with 100 days in detention in horrible conditions.

I then went to Mullivaaikaal beach, where the war came to a bloody end. Locals as well as many others from the North and East were present.

Amongst those present were those whose family members were killed, or disappeared after surrendering to the Army. Community activists who had been campaigning to regain military occupied civilian lands were also there. Tamil politicians were present, but they didn’t play any significant part.

Lamps were lit and “Mullivaikkaal Declaration” was read out, though many present had tears in their eyes and seemed too overcome with emotion to listen and understand.Foreign Tamil media were visible, but mainstream English and Sinhalese media were conspicuously absent.

That night, I stayed with a friend in an in interior farming village in the North. I was invited to join a moving and intimate family memorial in the house, led by my friend’s teenage daughters who told me that they were having this event at home as they couldn’t go to Mullivaikkaal. Their grandparents and parents also joined.

The event involved moments of silence, some music, lighting of lamps. The memorial was around an abandoned empty metal cup that my friend had picked up in his first visit to Mullivaikkaal after the end of the war. It had left a deep impression on him, and he had then installed the empty cup in the living area of the house, covered in a glass case, in a manner similar to religious statues and symbols are present in most Sri Lankan homes. That day, it was draped in fresh white flowers woven together by one of the girls.

A survivor’s memories

One of those I traveled with that day was a young girl of about 20. She was born in a refugee camp and lived a life of displacement. She had no loud cries or strident demands, but had vivid memories of the last phase of the war in 2009, of hiding in bunkers as shells and bombs rained on them and people fell dead and injured around her.

She and her family were first displaced from the North West coast, near Adampan in the Mannar district, and were displaced multiple times in 2007-2009 in places such as Illupakadavai, Mulankavil, Vatakachi, Suthanthirapuram, Valayarmadam and finally in Mullivaikkal. Her akka (elder sister) had registered her and another young sibling as the akka’s own children.

Her brother had been taken away by the LTTE, had managed to escape few times, only to get caught again, and finally, the LTTE had tied him up to await death but he somehow survived. She and her family had tried to escape the war zone, but the LTTE had shot at them as they tried to flee, and her sister had been injured. There were many other horror stories, too many and some too sad to narrate.

A few friends had planned to organize a discussion followed by a public memorial at a busy Colombo roundabout, but we had reluctantly postponed it considering the security context.

However, a memorial was held in a café in Colombo last week. Though the comfortable café seemed a different world to the North I had experienced on 18th May, the interest in knowing what had happened, by some who came, and the commitment of those who organized it, was inspiring.

Mullivaikkaal Kanji

“Mullivaikkaal Kanji (porridge)” was a striking feature of 18th May in the North. This plain and simple food was all the hundreds of thousands in precarious situation in bunkers, tents and on the move could eat in the last few months of the war. Ten years later, there are calls to have “Mullivaikkaal Kanji” for one meal on 18th May, to remember what happened.

Kanji was served along the Northern roads and after the Mullivaikkaal memorial. My friend’s family had only Kanji for lunch that day.

Having Mullivaikkaal Kanji for one meal across the country on May 18 could be one way Sri Lankans can unite, commemorate and express solidarity with the war dead, their families and survivors.

Refugee crisis in Sri Lanka after the Easter Sunday bombings

First published at https://groundviews.org/2019/05/04/refugee-crisis-in-sri-lanka-after-the-east-sunday-bombings/ on 4th May 2019

“Pakistanis a country where suicide bombings happen on a regular basis, mobs gather and kill minorities and people who think differently, houses and settlements are attacked, people are forced to leave their houses. I left my house once before in the state of fear that I could be killed or imprisoned because an allegation of blasphemy was brought against me. I was scared, sleepless, hungry and unable to go back to my home, all was lost in just matter of a few hours. In fear and extreme shock my wife and I left Pakistan, came to Sri Lanka. We left friends family and relatives, jobs and house behind. But now Sri Lanka has become the same, we have been forced out of the house that we lived in, today at noon a mob gathered outside our house and few people were violently kicking at the door. A person pushed me, slapped me and grabbed me by the collar.  There were two policemen behind him, they said ‘you have to go to the police station” Pakistani Refugee, standing outside the Negombo Police Station on 27 April 2019.

A Pakistani man who had been living in a rented house on Sea street in Negombo, told me how a mob had come to the house where he lived with his wife and 2 young children aged 4 and 2 and half years, kicked him and threatened to kill him, following which his house owner had forced him to leave with his family. A Pakistani woman narrated how a mob came to her house on Lewis Place in Negombo and threatened to attack her family unless they left the house immediately. Many left with only the clothes they were wearing, or with meager belongings, leaving behind vital document and basic essentials including clothes, medicine and children’s supplies.

Refugees to Sri Lanka become refugees within Sri Lanka

In the last two weeks, after the Easter Sunday bombings, I have heard many such stories from refugees around Negombo. House owners also told me mobs had threatened to destroy their houses if they hosted refugee families. This led to about 1200 refugees and asylum seekers (asylum seekers are those whose refugee applications are pending) being compelled to live in three make-shift refugee camps (two Ahmadi mosques and the Negombo Police station) in absolutely horrible conditions, with minimum toilet facilities and lack of water. Many are compelled to sleep in sitting positions due to lack of space.

The situation at the two mosques, both of which are not equipped to accommodate overnight stays, are terrible, with rain in the last few days making the situation worse. Both mosques are guarded by the police and army, with some locals, including Buddhist Monks, demanding them to be evicted from the largest refugee camp hosting about 700.

At the Negombo police station, about 175 including about 40 children live in a garage with no walls, on rough floor, sharing a couple of toilets that resident policemen had been using. The police had been helpful, kind and generous to share their meagre facilities, but the situation has become unbearable to the refugees and even the police.

Desperate appeals were made to organizations and churches to accommodate the refugees living at the Negombo police station in a more suitable place with better facilities. Many were scared to open their doors, but a few dared. However successive attempts to relocate them from the police station have failed due to mob violence and threats. When a group was taken to a church centre, local groups led by Buddhist Monks protested, police couldn’t assure security and they were brought back to the Negombo police. When a group of women and children were being taken to another institution, news was received of protests led by a local politician and the bus turned back, bringing them back to Negombo police. On two other occasions, they were loaded into buses to be taken to a pre-booked hostel in Colombo and a school in Negombo, but these two also failed due to lack of security assurances from police.

Re-displacement around Colombo

Negombo is not the only area refugees face hostilities and evictions since the Easter bombings. Four Afghan refugees living in a house near Kandy were evicted by the owner last week, after inquiries by a local gang followed by police raids, despite the raids not finding anything incriminating. Even the guest house they moved to is trying to evict them. An Afghan refugee was evicted from the house he was staying this week in Dehiwela. Another Afghan refugee living in Ratmalana, was called “enemy” by a neighbour, who had threatened to beat him. He and his family lives in fear, mostly holed up inside the house they rent. In Moratuwa, the house owner had asked an Afghan refugee family with children to leave after the police expressed doubts about their refugee documents.

Many guesthouse owners had refused to accept Afghan and Pakistani refugees, despite them having legal documents to reside in Sri Lanka. Muslim house owners are been particularly afraid, especially of inciting further hostilities from local people.

According to an Afghan refugee in Panadura, “previously people used to smile, now they view us with suspicion and hostility. This makes us fearful of travel. When I was looking to rent a room, the guest house owner shouted that ‘all Muslims are terrorists’. I tried to find other guest houses, but no one is willing to accommodate.’

Who are these refugees?

These refugees and asylum seekers have come to Sri Lanka seeking protection due to persecution they faced in their own countries. Some are Ahmadiya and Shia Muslims from the Hazara ethnic community, while others are Christians, all persecuted by Muslim groups. They belong to religious minorities who have suffered threats, attacks and killings by extremist groups, with little or no protection from the State against these attacks. Many refugees here are those persecuted under Pakistani law for blasphemy which is an offence punishable with death. A few persecuted human rights activists, journalists, bloggers, atheists and gay persons have also sought refuge in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention and there are no national procedures for the granting of refugee status. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), based on a 2005 agreement with the Government of Sri Lanka, registers asylum seekers and carries out refugee status determination. Successive Sri Lankan governments have welcomed them to stay in the country temporarily, till they find permanent resettlement in other countries. As of 31st March 2019, there were 851 persons who have been accepted as refugees awaiting resettlement in other countries and another 819 whose refugee applications are pending (asylum seekers)[1]. They come from about 15 countries, with majority of 1341 being are from Pakistan and 201 from Afghanistan[2]. There are also several whose applications for permanent resettlement in Canada is being processed. In the first three months of 2019, 20 refugees had departed for permanent resettlement[3]. The long application and review process, with several years intervening between application, interview and decision on refugee status being communicated, results in increasing uncertainty and fear for those seeking asylum. While the current crisis was unforeseen, systemic deficiencies have and continue to heighten vulnerabilities for refugees.

Refugee life in Sri Lanka before the Easter attacks

UNHCR provides those recognized as refugees with an allowance of about Rs. 10,000 per person or Rs. 22,000 for family with two or more children, which is not enough to cover even accommodation and food and live in dignity in Sri Lanka. Asylum seekers don’t get any allowance and are left to fend for themselves. Few Muslim and Church groups and NGOs have been supporting them with education, accommodation, food, healthcare etc. But these have been very minimal and only few have benefited.

The Sri Lankan government doesn’t ensure the right to housing, food, education, healthcare or legal employment for asylum seekers and refugees. No permanent or even transitional shelter is provided by the government. They are not included in government programs for food and nutrition security or social security programs such as Samurdhi, even though this could be done fairly easily and at little extra cost. The treatment and services available to asylum seekers and refugees at public hospitals and clinics is often lacking in terms of care and compassion. In some cases, the provision of treatment is at the discretion of authorities and asylum seekers and refugees who seek medical care are made to feel like they are seeking a privilege, rather than exercising a basic right. Despite being forced to flee having experienced and witnessing atrocities, violence and discrimination, anxieties about family and friends they left behind and finding themselves in an unfamiliar and unwelcoming environment, there is no psychiatric and psychosocial care made available to asylum seekers and refugees.

Although the Sri Lankan Constitution guarantees “assurance to all persons of the right to universal and equal access to education at all levels”, this is not extended to refugee and asylum children. The refugee children between 6 – 10 years have access to schooling through UNHCR’s support, but children of secondary school age, do not have any access to formal schooling. Asylum seekers and refugees are also not absorbed into the many government technical education and vocational training systems, which has the potential to help them to learn and develop vocational skills that they could utilize in seeking employment and living independently in Sri Lanka and their countries of permanent resettlement.

Why fear refugees?

Hopes of temporary respite for the crisis arose when the Governors of the Northern and Southern provinces came forward to host refugees. This has been communicated to the President, UN and other officials and many discussions have been held. But the around 1200 refugees still remain in the three camps, despite the worsening situation. A few Northern Tamil politicians are reported to have opposed hosting refugees in the North, but refreshingly, other Tamil politicians, civil society activists and clergy in North have welcomed refugees. It is now up to the central government to consider these generous offers and finalize interim arrangements to resolve this crisis, respecting rights and dignity, including freedom of movement. It is essential that UNHCR presence is strengthened and the UN takes a proactive role, with space for civil society and religious leaders. In view of new threats to refugees, foreign governments must also come forward to expedite offering permanent resettlement to those who have been granted refugee status by UNHCR.

As stated earlier, much of the fear and anger towards refugees stems from a lack of awareness and understanding. Like all Sri Lankans, tourists and other foreign nationals, refugees are bound by the laws of the land. I’ve heard of foreign tourists being arrested on suspicion of being involved in serious crimes such as drug peddling, but I have not heard such reports about refugees.

Few in Sri Lanka seem aware of religious or ethnic minorities living in countries such as Pakistan and Afghanistan and the crimes committed against them, including by Muslims. This ignorance, coupled with hostility and suspicions towards Muslims following the Easter attacks has led to wave of reprisals against refugees in Sri Lanka.

Caring for people terrorized in their own countries fleeing to other countries is a global challenge. Hundreds of thousands of Sri Lankans have sought and received international protection and support in numerous countries. Compared to about 28.5 million refugees worldwide, out of which Pakistan is hosting about 1.4 million and Bangladesh is hosting about 900,000, we have very tiny refugee population of less than 1700 to care for.[4]

We as Sri Lankans should feel proud that refugees terrorized in their own countries, have trusted us and come to us, hoping that we would welcome them, care for them, support them and protect them, during a temporary stay of few years. We must not fail them, we must open our hearts and doors to them.

[1]UNHCR monthly update of 31stMarch 2019

[2]Ibid

[3]Ibid

[4]https://www.unhcr.org/en-lk/figures-at-a-glance.html,https://data2.unhcr.org/en/country/pakand http://reporting.unhcr.org/sites/default/files/UNHCR%20Bangladesh%20Operational%20Update%20-%20March%202019.pdf

Police garage turns into a refugee camp

First published at http://www.sundayobserver.lk/2019/04/28/news-features/police-garage-turns-refugee-camp on 28th April 2019

The Negombo Police was a strange sight last week with children, women and men camped out in the garage, on rough floor with no walls and proper sanitation facilities. They were there as they had no other safe place to go.

These were some of the refugees and asylum seekers, who had fled persecution in their own countries. They are not allowed to work, their children don’t go to school, but they are allowed to live here temporarily, based on an agreement between the Sri Lankan government and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

In the aftermath of Easter Sunday bombings, mobs in Negombo had broken into some of their residences and beaten up some of them. People who had been letting out rooms had also been pressured to ask the refugees to leave immediately. With no place to go, they had to rush to the Negombo Police station.

Appeals were made to various church institutions and other groups to host these refugees. Most were scared and declined. A few dared, but angry local mobs turned up and insisted that the refugees should be evicted. On one occasion, the mob had arrived even before the refugees got there. The police and the armed forces couldn’t assure them safety, so they were displaced yet again.

It was from one such shelter that two buses with tired, scared faces arrived at the Negombo Police station on Friday evening. But the police refused to host them, didn’t allow them to get down from the buses and insisted we take them ‘somewhere else’. A few of us including a Catholic nun and three priests tried to make the police understand that they have no homes to go to and insisted we can only move them with an assurance of safety. Appeals were made on the phone to government officials. Finally, the police agreed to let them stay the night, without a solution as to where they would have to stay in the days, weeks and months to come.

Some of the house owners who had been compelled to evict these refugees, had visited them to see how they were faring and with some bringing food. The police had allowed them to use their washrooms providing them sanitation facilities. A policeman on night duty had given up his fan to provide some comfort to children not falling asleep and another had made milk for crying children. But how long can an already over-streched police host a refugee camp?

It’s the duty of the State with the UNHCR, to protect and support this vulnerable community, who had suffered so much. If Negombo and the sourroundings are not safe, other options should be considered.

As we grieve the lives lost in the bombings, support the injured and their families, we must also stand in solidarity with asylum seekers and refugees. It’s an opportunity to extend social and political hospitality to those in need and most vulnerable. It is not enough to open our hearts, we must open our doors as well.

Christians and Religious Freedom under fire

First published at http://www.sundayobserver.lk/2019/04/21/opinion/christians-and-religious-freedom-under-fire on 21st April 2019

From February 3 to April 14 this year, across Sri Lanka, there has been some sort of disruption against a Christian worship service every Sunday – on 11 successive Sundays to be specific.

Christians in Sri Lanka suffer violations of their right to religion and belief regularly, but most incidents do not make it to the news – or even to the Twittersphere. But the attack on the Methodist Church Centre in Anuradhapura, last Sunday, which was also Palm Sunday, a day of religious significance for Christians, was widely reported because of the forthright personal testimony and determined efforts of the President of the Methodist Conference, Bishop Asiri Perera, who had experienced the attack first hand.

In the past two months, this same church centre had obscenities shouted and stones pelted at it. A Municipal Councillor and villagers had forcibly broken in and threatened the priest and worshippers with assault. The Sunday before the Palm Sunday attack, they had cancelled the service due to intense pressure about the legality of their premises and services.

Types of violations

The violations reported this year against Christians include forcible entry to places of worship while services were ongoing, disrupting services, damaging properties, throwing stones and gathering outside places of worship in a threatening manner. Those leading prayers, hosting prayer services and participants have been threatened and obscene language used against them. Among the more serious violations was an assault of two females in two different incidents, a death threat and a threat to burn a place of worship.

At least 15 police complaints have been filed, some dealing with several violations. In some cases, police had refused or been reluctant to take complaints, sometimes going to the extent of siding with the alleged perpetrators, mocking and admonishing victims. On some occasions, police had refused to take matters to courts, demanded that victims file private plaints, and even refused to offer protection.

The right to Religion or belief cannot be restricted under any circumstances in the Sri Lankan Constitution. But one of the most regular violations have been questioning the legality of Christian prayers and places of worship, by Government officials, police, bhikkus and ordinary persons, often demanding registration, authorisation or approval from an official. Only on a few occasions have the police insisted on the right to freedom of religion or belief of Christians.

Numbers

This year, at least 13 churches and one individual have been affected in nine districts, with about 35 incidents and about 70 violations. Some churches have been affected multiple times, with multiple violations, such as disrupting a service, assault, death threats, shouting obscenities and damage to property.

Such violations against Christians have occurred regularly in Sri Lanka over several years, under successive governments.

A report by Verite Research in 2014 reported that a state institution or public servant was recorded as the key perpetrator of religious violence against Christians in 175 incidents (18%) out of 972 incidents examined between 1994 and 2014. Many of these have been diligently documented for years by the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka. 226 incidents of violence against Christians have been reported between January 2015 – June 2017 and 86 incidents in 2018. Many of the Christians under attack have been small rural Christian communities.

They have had little support from Churches which wield more political-social influence such as the Catholic Church, and various inter-religious bodies operating at local and national level. Though I have focused on the situation of Christians here, Muslims too have been under fire in Sri Lanka, with some of the harshest violence against them being concentrated within a few days in towns such as Aluthgama in 2014 and Digana in 2018. There have also been reports of violations against Hindus.

Way forward

Impunity has served as a licence for continued violence against religious minorities. Despite compelling evidence in some incidents, there has been a reluctance to use the existing legal framework to arrest and prosecute those responsible. Ironically, the ICCPR Act was recently used to imprison a writer and suppress free expression based on complaints by a Buddhist group that the writer has caused pain of mind to Buddhists and insulted Buddhism, but the same Act has not been used to arrest and prosecute those responsible for blatant and serious violations against Christians. Political will and legal action is essential to protect the rights of religious minorities.

Asserting rights sensitively would help, but it is unfair to expect victims to compromise and tolerate violations of their inalienable rights. Rather, the ‘good’ among the majorities, especially, Buddhists, must proactively protect the rights of religious minorities being persecuted and the more influential Christian churches must show support and solidarity to smaller and more vulnerable churches.

Unless and until all persons and communities, especially, the minorities and the vulnerable, can freely practise their religion without fear, religious harmony and co-existence will be a myth.

****

Examples of violations against Christians in 2019

1. As a female pastor and worshippers were preparing for a Sunday worship service, a mob of around 200 led by some bhikkus had forcibly entered the church premises, demanded to stop the worship, threatened the worshippers in obscene language, and damaged furniture and roofing sheets. A bhikku had threatened the Christians with death if they refused to stop their worship. The mob had also dragged a female worshipper on to the street, threw her at the feet of the bhikkus, and beaten her, and she had to be hospitalised. Some of the bhikkus had lodged a complaint, claiming the pastor was breaching the peace. At an inquiry, the monks and villagers had demanded the pastor stop conducting her services and only engage in worship in private. The Officer-in Charge (OIC) had told the pastor to comply with the demands of the monks and said the police wouldn’t provide her with further protection.

2. While a Sunday worship service was ongoing, bhikkus and a group of youth had forcibly entered the place of worship, shouting in obscene language and threatened the worshippers. Later, the policemen in civil clothes had tried to compel the pastor to attend an inquiry within 15 minutes, despite the pastor’s request for adequate time to consult his lawyer.

3. While a Sunday worship service was ongoing, a bhikkus had stood outside taking pictures of the premises and later, a group of around 35 villagers had gathered and stoned the premises. They had forcibly entered the place of worship and demanded to stop the worship immediately and threatened to burn the building if they refused to comply. A few days later, the pastor’s residence was stoned by unidentified individuals. The Officer-in-Charge (OIC) of the police had refused the pastor’s request to refer the matter to court and told him to file a private plaint.

4. A pastor had received a copy of a letter addressed by a Divisional Secretary (DS) to the OIC of the local police, instructing the latter to stop Christian religious worship activities, claiming the place of worship was not registered with the DS. A few days later, while the Sunday service was ongoing, around 30 individuals, two police officers and the Grama Niladhari had questioned the pastor and told him to meet with the DS the following day. The DS had demanded the pastor stop his religious worship activities immediately and threatened to confiscate the pastor’s home (received through a tsunami resettlement scheme) if he refused to comply.

5. A group of 30 individuals had arrived at a place of worship and demanded to speak to the pastor, who was not there. Two individuals had then assaulted the female owner of the premises.

6. While a pastor and his wife were visiting a congregant’s home, a group of villagers had damaged the front door of the house and a cross hanging on it. The group had demanded to know about approval to carry out worship activities in the village and threatened the pastor. They had scolded the pastor’s wife in obscene language and attempted to assault the pastor. The police had been reluctant to take down the complaint.

7. Villagers had threatened a Christian not to invite a pastor to conduct bible studies in his home. Later, when he had gone to lodge another complaint to the police about threats to his life, he was arrested, based on a false allegation of assault. After he was released on bail, a government official had told him to stop having bible studies at his house.

Sri Lanka’s latest attempt to legalize state terror

First published at https://www.ucanews.com/news/sri-lankas-latest-attempt-to-legalize-state-terror/84751 on 25th March 2019

Replacing one act that tramples on human rights with another that makes potential suspects of us all is no solution

Five years ago on the night of March 16, a Catholic priest called Father Praveen and I were arrested in Kilinochchi, the former capital of the Tamil Tigers (LTTE) in Sri Lanka’s Northern Province. We were detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and subjected to intense interrogation. The reasons given for my arrest included causing discomfort to the government and sending information overseas to earn money. Unlike many other PTA detainees, we were released after 51 hours — probably due to intense national and international campaigns. But the agony continued after our release. I was almost abducted by armed men in civilian clothes who raided the office of a human rights organization where I was doing some work. Later, the chief of the unit that arrested us told me they were his men, and they had been searching for a different terror suspect.

The overseas travel restriction on me has been lifted, but my electronic equipment that was confiscated has not been returned, and the restrictions on my freedom of expression remain in place. In 2009, Shantha Fernando, an activist working for the Commission for Justice and Peace of the National Christian Council, was also arrested and detained under the PTA. His crime? Carrying photos through the airport depicting the humanitarian crisis that unfolded during the last phase of the 26-year civil war, during which time the military stands accused of conducting war crimes. The PTA has led to the prolonged detention of innocents. In 2015, a court reportedly acquitted a Tamil mother after finding her not guilty of the charges leveled against her — after she had already spent 15 years in detention. The PTA has served as a license for reprisals against dissent, enforced disappearances, torture, sexual violence and prolonged detention. The cabinet formally approved and presented the bill to parliament last year. It is known as the Counter Terrorism Act (CTA).

Problems with the CTA

The CTA uses broad definitions that could make almost anyone a terrorist, and any act of dissent a terrorist act, with intention a key factor. Acts associated with terrorism can include gathering information, and distributing or making information available to a person or the public. Journalists could be penalized for not revealing sources. Participating in or organizing a protest, or a trade union strike, could also make one a terrorist suspect. There is no compulsion to protect an arrested person from physical harm, or to convey the information about their arrest in their own language at the time they are apprehended. What needs to be done is for the government to withdraw the CTA. Failing that, parliament must defeat it. The PTA must be repealed separately. There is no need to link the two laws together. Meanwhile, opposition to the two acts is increasing. But barring some disapproving comments by the bishop of Batticaloa and a few priests, the church leadership, including Caritas, have stayed quiet on the CTA. It is time to stand up and say no to both the PTA and the CTA. Any delay could have dire consequences for people’s human rights, dignity and democracy.

 

Families of the disappeared: Two years of protests, what must they do next?

First published at http://www.sundayobserver.lk/2019/03/03/news-features/families-disappeared-two-years-protests-what-must-they-do-next on 3rd March 2019

The biggest protest I had ever participated in or seen in Kilinochchi took place last week. It was organised by the Tamil families of the disappeared, to mark two years of roadside protests and demanding information about loved ones who had disappeared. It was a gruelling march of more than six km that took over two hours, through the sprawling A9 road in Kilinochchi, braving extreme midday heat.

Perhaps, this pales in the context of the families having braved the sun, rain, dust, fumes, intimidation, threats and assaults for two years. Several elderly mothers collapsed during the march. But more died in the course of continuous protests, not knowing what happened to their loved ones.

Colombo

Colombo seemed indifferent. When one of the women leading the Kilinochchi protest called me, she had a clear request. She asked me to join them on February 25, bringing the Sinhalese and English media, colleagues from Colombo and others from the international community. I did ask many, but predictably, there was not much of a response. The protest coincided with the first year anniversary of the Office of Missing Persons (OMP).

The OMP it had initiated inquiries and made interventions on some cases and referred to its primary mandate as being to ‘Search and trace tens of thousands of missing and disappeared persons’.

But the Office provided no information on the number of persons it had made progress searching for or specific progress made in a single case. Neither did it provide an assessment about progress made in implementing recommendations made in an interim report six months ago. In this context, it was not surprising to hear families of the disappeared protesting in Kilinochchi reiterating that they had no hope or confidence in the OMP.

One woman at the protest was clutching a letter sent by a previous Presidential Commission of Inquiry led by Maxwell Paranagama, which had functioned under President Mahinda Rajapaksa and President Maithripala Sirisena, The letter promised investigations, but the lady had not heard of any progress or results on investigations. Protesters told me that might be what the OMP might end up doing as well.

Geneva

Geneva also seems indifferent. Last week, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) started its 40th session, where it is due to review progress made by the Sri Lankan Government in terms of commitments made on accountability and reconciliation at the UN body three and half years ago. At the Kilinochchi protest, there were many references to the UN, demanding an increased role from it. The protesters recalled that resolution 34/1 of the UNHRC was due to inaction of the Sri Lankan Government on resolution 30/1 and commitments therein.

They demanded the UN to ‘Stop giving Sri Lanka more time’, instead to consider other options of ensuring reconciliation and accountability. But the first draft of a resolution on Sri Lanka to be adopted by the Council dated February 27, two days after the Kilinochchi protest, had no reference to, nor reflected the spirit, grievances, aspirations and efforts made by families of the disappeared on the road continuously for two years.

For me, it seemed that protesting families increased demands from the UN were not based on faith in the UN, but deep frustration and disappointment in the political leadership, and institutions such as the judiciary and the OMP.

Indeed, when I joined the same families at a similar protest on the 100th day of their continuous roadside protest, they blocked the A9 road for about five hours and their primary demand was to meet the President. The families also seem to have very little faith in Tamil politicians and insisted that Tamil politicians with access to the international community, donot represent them.

Hartal

A significant feature of the Kilinochchi protest last week was the hartal across the Northern Province. Shops, eateries, some supermarkets and banks were shuttered. There were no local buses and very few vehicles on the main roads. Hartals usually inconvenience the poor. Those who use public transport end up being stranded, daily wage earners lose their income. But my impression was that many joined the hartal sympathising and supporting the struggle of families of the disappeared. The popular women led eatery in Kilinochchi, Ammachi was closed, which meant loss of income.

I met some of the women at the protest, easily identifiable by their Ammachi t-shirts. After the protest, a shop keeper in Iranaipalei in the Mullaitivu District, about an hour’s drive away from the Kilinochchi protest, told me he could not go for the protest, but closed his shop in support of the protest. A trishaw driver who had stayed home in Mullaitivu expressed similar sentiments. Some of the female community leaders of the Kepapilavu community, themselves at a roadside protest for two years demanding release of military occupied land, also joined the Kilinochchi protest.

So did families of the disappeared, women’s activists, Christian clergy from across the North and the East. Many Tamil journalists from the North were covering the protest. Some Tamil politicians also joined, but played a low profile role, heeding the explicit demands from protest leaders that politicians should not be at the forefront of the demonstrations.

Reprisals

The day of the protest and hartal was also the day three habeas corpus cases in relation disappearances were being taken up in Jaffna courts, where a serving senior military officer is implicated. A female activist involved in the case had allegedly been assaulted and hospitalised last year and lawyers have allegedly been intimidated.

Even on this day, a lawyer was reportedly subject to intimidation as she was leaving courts after appearing in the case, with men on a motorbike trying to crash into her car. Last year had allegedly seen several incidents of reprisals against both Tamil and Sinhalese families of the disappeared.

Importance of solidarity

My visits and interactions with protesting families had led me to write about my experiences and reflections. The last two pieces I wrote to this paper on disappearances was about 366 days and then 500 days of the continued roadside protests. As I contemplated writing about the 730 days of the protests, I wondered what new things I could write. Not much seems to have changed, except continuing reprisals, increasing frustration and desperation.

The same lines with which I finished off my 500 days articles sums up my feelings today.

“As they wait for answers from the Government and institutions such as the OMP and judiciary about their loved ones, families of the disappeared deserve more coverage by mainstream Sinhalese and English media. They need continued solidarity from society – Sri Lankan and international. The struggle of the families must become a struggle of all Sri Lankans”.

The hartal showed that the North is listening and in solidarity with Tamil families of the disappeared. But Colombo (and the rest of Sri Lanka) and Geneva (and the world) doesn’t seem to be listening. What the families can do next remains a big question mark.

புதிய பயங்கரவாத எதிர்ப்புச் சட்டமூலம்: அநீதியை நடைமுறைப்படுத்தும் நவீன அனுமதிப் பத்திரமா?

First published at https://maatram.org/?p=7569 on 19th February 2019

சுமார் 40 வருடங்களுக்கு மேற்பட்ட காலம் சித்திரவதைக்கு உட்படுத்துவதற்கும், பாலியல் துன்புறுத்தல்களுக்கும், வலுக்கட்டாயமாக ஆட்களைக் காணாமல் ஆக்குவதற்கும், நீண்டகாலம் ஆட்களைத்  தடுப்புக் காவலில் வைப்பதற்கும் வழங்கப்படும் ஓர் அனுமதிப்பத்திரமாகப் பயங்கரவாதத் தடைச் சட்டம் (Prevention of Terrorism Act – PTA) பயன்படுத்தப்படுகிறது. பயங்கரவாதம் தொடர்பாக, ஒரு சாதாரண சந்தேக நபர் மாத்திரமல்லாமல் ஊடகவியலாளர்கள், சமூகச் செயற்பாட்டாளர்கள் என்போர் இச்சட்டத்தின் கீழ் கைதுசெய்யப்பட்டதோடு, அரசாங்கத்திற்கு எதிராக முன்வைக்கப்படும், விமர்சன ரீதியான கருத்துக்களை ஒடுக்குவதற்கும், இச்சட்டம் மிக மோசமாக பயன்படுத்தப்பட்டுள்ளது. குறிப்பாக தமிழ் மக்களுக்கு எதிராக, இது அநேகமான சந்தர்ப்பங்களில் தவறான முறையில் பயன்படுத்தப்பட்டுள்ளது.

தற்போதைய அரசு பதவிக்கு வந்த பின்னர், இவ்வொடுக்குமுறை ரீதியான பயங்கரவாதத் தடைச் சட்டத்தை நீக்குவதாகவும், சர்வதேச ரீதியாக சிறந்த நடைமுறைக்கு ஏற்பவும் பயங்கரவாதத்திற்கு எதிராக ஒரு சட்டத்தை சமர்ப்பிப்பதாகவே பல்வேறு சந்தர்ப்பங்களில் உறுதிமொழிகள் வழங்கப்பட்டன. இதன் விளைவாகவே, கடந்த ஆண்டு செப்டெம்பர் மாதத்தில் புதிய பயங்கரவாதத் தடைச் சட்டம் ஒன்று வரையப்பட்டது. இவ்வரைவு ஆங்கிலத்தில் பயங்கரவாதத்திற்கு எதிரான சட்டம் (Counter Terrorism Act – CTA) எனப் பெயரிடப்பட்டது. சிங்கள மொழியில் பழைய பெயரில் பயங்கரவாதத் தடைச் சட்டம் என அறிமுகப்படுத்தப்பட்டு, வர்த்தமானப் பத்திரிகையில் வெளியிடப்பிடப்பட்டுள்ளமை ஒரு வகையில் கேளிக்கூத்தாகும்.

“பயங்கரவாதம் என அறிமுகப்படுத்தப்படும் தவறுகள் சம்பந்தமாக நடவடிக்கை எடுப்பதற்கு சுமார் 14 சட்டங்கள் – தண்டனைச் சட்டக் கோவையின் 6 வாசகங்கள் உட்பட சுமார் 20 சட்டங்கள் இலங்கைச் சட்டத்தில் உள்ளடக்கப்பட்டுள்ளன. அதேசமயம், அவசரகால நிலைமையின் கீழ் செயற்படுவதற்கு ஜனாதிபதிக்கு அவசரகாலச் சட்டத்தை பிரகடனப்படுத்தும் அதிகாரமும் உண்டு. நிலைமை இவ்வாறு இருக்கையில், பயங்கரவாதம் தொடர்பாக தனியான விசேட சட்டத்தின் அவசியம், வெறுமனே சிறுபான்மை சமூகங்கள் அரசுக்கு எதிராக முன்வைக்கும் விமர்சன ரீதியான கருத்துக்களை ஒடுக்குவதாகவே அமையும். ஆகவே, பயங்கரவாதத்தை ஒடுக்குவதற்கு ஏற்கனவே உள்ள சட்டங்கள் போதுமானவை என்பது எமது கருத்தாகும்.”

முன்னைய பயங்கரவாதத் தடைச் சட்டம் பயன்படுத்தப்பட்டது போலவே, இப்புதிய சட்ட மூலமும் சாதாரண மக்களுக்கும், ஊடகவியலாளர்களுக்கும் சமூகச் செயற்பாட்டாளர்களுக்கும் எதிராக தொந்தரவுகளை மேற்கொள்ளக்கூடிய வகையில் பயன்படுத்துவதற்கு அவசியமான வாய்ப்புக்களை முறையே வழங்கியுள்ளன.

இச்சட்டத்தில் பரந்துபட்ட தெளிவின்மை காணப்படுகிறது. பயங்கரவாதம் என்பதற்கு வரைவிலக்கணமாக கருதக்கூடிய தவறுகள் பற்றி சரியான விளக்கம் வழங்கப்படவில்லை. இதன் காரணமாக இச்சட்டத்தைப் பயன்படுத்தி, அரசியலமைப்பின் மூலம் வழங்கப்பட்டுள்ள கருத்துச் சுதந்திரம், ஒன்றுகூடும் சுதந்திரம் மற்றும் ஒரு சங்கத்தை உருவாக்கும் சுதந்திரம் என்பன மட்டுப்படுத்தப்படுவதற்கான வாய்ப்பு உண்டு. அடிப்படை மனித உரிமைகள் கூட நல்லெண்ணத்தோடு அமுல்படுத்தியிருந்தால் மாத்திரமே பயங்கரவாத செயலாகக் கருதப்படமாட்டாது.

இச்சட்டத்தின் கீழ் கைதுசெய்யப்பட்ட நபர் உடல் ரீதியாக பாதிப்புக்கு உள்ளாக்கப்படாத வகையில் பேணப்படுவது கட்டாயப்படுத்தப்படவில்லை. கைது செய்யப்படும் நபர், கைது செய்யப்படுவதற்கான காரணமும் அதற்கு ஏற்புடைய ஏனைய தகவல்களையும் அறிவித்தல் கட்டாயமாக்கப்படவில்லை. பின்னர் இவ்வாறு செய்வதற்கான காலச் சட்டகம் வழங்கப்படவும் இல்லை. குடும்ப உறுப்பினர்கள் கைதுசெய்யப்படும்போது அந்த இடத்தில் பிரசன்னமாக இருந்தாலும் கைது செய்யப்பட்டமைக்கான விவரங்களை அவர்களுக்கு அறிவிப்பதற்குக் கூட 24 மணித்தியாலங்கள் வழங்கப்படவில்லை. குடும்பத்திலுள்ளோர் கைதுசெய்யப்படக்கூடிய வேறு சந்தர்ப்பங்களில் அவ்விடத்தில் இருந்தவர் அல்லது அவர்கள் கைது செய்யப்பட்டமையை அறிவிப்பது கட்டாயப்படுத்தப்படவில்லை. அதே சமயம் பெண் சந்தேக நபர்கள் பெண் பாதுகாப்பு உத்தியோகத்தர்களால் கைது செய்யப்பட வேண்டுமெனவும் அவர்கள் விசாரணைக்கு உட்படுத்தப்படும் போது கட்டாயமாக ஒரு பெண் உத்தியோகத்தர் அவ்விடத்தில்  பிரசன்னமாக இருத்தல் வேண்டுமென்பதும் அத்தியாவசியப்படுத்தப்படவில்லை.

பொலிஸார் தாக்கல் செய்த தடுத்து வைக்கும் கட்டளைக்கு நீதவானின் அங்கீகாரம் பெறல் வேண்டும். அதே சமயம், ஒரு நபர் இரண்டு வாரங்கள் வரை தடுத்து வைப்பதைத் தீர்மானிப்பவர் பொலிஸ் உத்தியோகத்தர் ஆவார். மேலும், இத்தகைய தடுத்துவைக்கும் கட்டளையை, 8 வாரங்கள் வரை நீடிப்பதை  நீதவான் அங்கீகரிக்க முடியும். பொலிஸார் கைதுசெய்தமை தொடர்பாக மனித உரிமைகள் ஆணைக்குழுவிற்கு அறிவிப்பதற்கு 22 மணித்தியாலங்கள் கால அவகாசம் வழங்கப்பட்டுள்ளது. அவருடைய வழக்கு ஒரு வருடத்தை விட அதிக காலகட்டத்திற்கு இழுபட்டுக்கொண்டு போனால் மாத்திரமே சந்தேக நபருக்கு பிணை வழங்கப்படும். தடுத்து வைக்கப்பட்டிருப்பவரின் சட்டத்தரணி மற்றும் குடும்ப அங்கத்தவர்கள் தடுத்து வைக்கப்பட்டிருக்கும் அமைவிடத்திற்கு பிரவேசிப்பதாயின் அந்த நிலையத்திற்குப் பொறுப்பான அரச அதிகாரியின் முன்னங்கீகாரத்தைப் பெறுதல் வேண்டும். அமைச்சர் ஒருவர் தீர்மானிக்கும் அமைவிடத்தில் மற்றும் நிலைமைகளின் கீழேயே முடிவு எடுக்கப்படுகிறது. இத்தகைய தடுத்து வைத்தலுக்கு எதிராக ‘மீளாய்வுக் குழுவிடம்’ மேன்முறையீடு செய்ய முடியும். எனினும் இம்மீளாய்வுக்குழு அமைச்சர், அமைச்சுச் செயலாளர், அமைச்சரினால் நியமிக்கப்படும் மேலும் இருவரை உள்ளடக்கியதாக அமையும். சமூகச் செயற்பாட்டாளர்களுக்கும் ஊடகவியலாளர்களுக்கும் எதிரணி அரசியல்வாதிகளுக்கும் எதிராக ஆட்சி அதிகாரத்தில் உள்ள அரசியல்வாதிகளும் பொலிஸாரும் பயங்கவாதத் தடைச் சட்டத்தைப் பயன்படுத்தும் எமது வரலாற்றைக் பின்னோக்கிப் பார்க்கையில், இச்சட்டத்தின் மூலம் அமைச்சருக்கும் பொலிஸாருக்கும் வழங்கப்பட்டுள்ள அதிகாரம் ஒரு நரியிடம் கோழிக் குஞ்சுகளை ஒப்படைப்பதற்கு ஈடாகும் என்ற கருத்து எமக்கு  மேலும் சந்தேகத்தை ஏற்படுத்துகிறது.

இச்சட்டத்தின் மூலம் தடுத்து வைக்கப்பட்டிருப்போரின் உடலில் ஏதாவது காயங்கள் உண்டா என பரிசீலனை செய்வதற்கு பொலிஸ் நிலையப் பொறுப்பதிகாரியிடம் அதிகாரம் ஒப்படைக்கப்பட்டுள்ளதோடு, அவர் அத்தகைய காயங்களை அவதானித்தாரேயாயின், ஒரு சட்ட வைத்திய அதிகாரியிடம் தடுப்புக் காவலில் வைத்திருப்பவரை ஒப்படைத்து, சட்ட வைத்திய அறிக்கையைப் பெற வேண்டும். நீதவான் அல்லது மனித உரிமைகள் ஆணைக்குழு உத்தியோகத்தர் ஒருவர் தடுத்து வைக்கப்பட்டிருக்கும் இடத்திற்கு வருகை தரும் சந்தர்ப்பத்தில் தடுத்து வைக்கப்பட்டவர் மனிதாபிமானம் அற்ற கவனிப்பின் கீழ் தடுத்து வைக்கப்பட்டிருப்பின், அவர்கள் சிறைச்சாலை கண்காணிப்பு உத்தியோகத்தருக்கு அல்லது பொலிஸ் மா அதிபருக்கு அறிவித்தல் வேண்டும். இது தொடர்பாக உரிய நடவடிக்கைகளை எடுத்து ஏற்புடைய மனிதாபிமான நிலைமைகளை வழங்குமாறு நிர்ப்பந்திக்க முடியாது. சந்தேக நபர்கள் தடுப்புக் காவலில் இருக்கும்போது, துன்புறுத்தல்கள் இடம்பெறுமாயின் அல்லது  பாலியல் வன்முறைகளுக்கு உட்படுத்தப்படுவார்களேயாயின், முன்னைய  பயங்கரவாதத் தடைச்சட்டத்தின் கீழ் அதற்கான ஏற்பாடுகள் இருந்தன. ஆனால்,உத்தேச புதிய சட்டம்  நிலைமைகளை மேலும் மோசமாக்கலாம்.

அமுலில்  உள்ள பயங்கரவாதத் தடைச் சட்டத்தின் கீழ் கைது செய்யப்படுதல், குறிப்பிட்ட அமைவிடங்களுக்குப் பிரவேசித்தல் மற்றும் பொருட்களை கைப்பற்றுதல் ஆகிய  நடவடிக்கைகளை பொலிஸ் உத்தியோகத்தர்கள் மாத்திரமே  மேற்கொள்ள முடியும். ஆனால், புதிய சட்டத்தின் கீழ் முப்படையினருக்கும், கரையோரப் பாதுகாப்பு பிரிவினருக்கும் இவ் அதிகாரங்கள் கிடைக்கின்றன. அதேசமயம் பொலிஸார், பாதிக்கப்பட்ட தரப்பினருக்கு அவர்களது மனக்குறைகளை எடுத்துக்கூற சந்தர்ப்பம் வழங்காமல், ஒரு கூட்டத்தை, ஒரு பேரணியை அல்லது ஒரு செயற்பாட்டை நிறுத்துவதற்கு நீதவானிடம் கோரிக்கை விடுக்கலாம். மறுபுறம் ஏதாவது ஓர் அமைப்பை, பொது அமைவிடத்தை அல்லது வேறு ஓர் இடத்தைத் தடை செய்யப்பட்ட அமைவிடமாக கால வரையறையின்றி பிரகடனப்படுத்தும், கட்டளையை விடுப்பதற்கு முன்னர், அவ்விடயத்தைச் சவாலுக்கு உட்படுத்துவதற்கு பாதிக்கப்பட்ட தரப்பினருக்கு வாய்ப்பு கிடைக்கமாட்டாது. அதேசமயம் அமைப்புக்களின் கூட்டங்கள், நடவடிக்கைகள் மற்றும் நிகழ்ச்சித்திட்டங்களை நடத்துவதைத் தடுத்தல், வங்கிக் கணக்குகள், வேறு நிதி வைப்புக்களை பயன்படுத்துதல் அல்லது அவற்றை ஈடுபடுத்துவதைத் தடை செய்தல், உடன்படிக்கைகளுக்கு வருவதை தடை செய்தல், நிதி சேகரித்தல், நிதி அளித்தல், சொத்துக்களை ஒப்படைப்பதை தடை செய்தல், நிதி அல்லது சொத்துக்களை ஒப்படைப்பதை தடை செய்தல்,  ஓர் அமைப்பின் சார்பில் அழுத்தங்களைப் பிரயோகித்தல், கோரிக்கைகளை முன்வைத்தல் என்பவற்றை தடுப்பதற்கு அமைச்சருக்கு அதிகாரம் உண்டு.

தற்போதைய பயங்கரவாதத் தடைச் சட்டத்தில் வழங்கப்படாத, புதிய சட்டமூலத்தின் மூலம் ஒப்படைக்கப்படும் மேலதிக அதிகாரங்கள் ஜனாதிபதிக்கு உண்டு. உதாரணமாக, ஊரடங்குச் சட்டத்தை பிரகடனப்படுத்துவதற்கும், பொது மக்களின் ஒழுங்கைப் பேணுவதற்கு முப்படையினரை அழைப்பதற்கும் அதிகாரம் ஜனாதிபதிக்கு  வழங்கப்பட்டுள்ளது.

அதே சமயம், புதிய சட்டத்தின் கீழ் பகிரங்கமாக மன்னிப்புக் கோருவதற்கும், புனர்வாழ்வு அளிக்கப்படுவதற்கும், சமூக சேவையில் ஈடுபடுத்துவதற்கும் அதிகாரம் உண்டு. இவற்றின் மூலம் இழைத்த குற்றத்திற்கு நஷ்ட ஈடு செலுத்துவது ஏற்றுக்கொள்ளப்படமாட்டாது. இந்நிலைமையின் கீழ் வழக்கு விசாரணைகளுக்கு நீண்டகாலம் எடுக்கப்படுவதனால், சட்டத்தரணிகளின் கட்டணம் என்பன பாதிக்கப்பட்டோர் தாங்க முடியாத அளவு உயர்ந்து செல்கின்றது. எனவே, பலர் நீதிமன்ற நடவடிக்கைகளின் மூலம் தமது குற்றமற்ற தன்மையை நிரூபிப்பதற்கு கஷ்டப்படுவதற்குப் பதிலாக, குற்ற ஒப்புதலை ஏற்றுக்கொள்வதற்கு இடமுண்டு. இத்தகைய சந்தர்ப்பங்களில் குற்றப்பகர்வு பத்திரத்தின்படி சட்டமா அதிபர் குற்றச் சாட்டுக்களை வாபஸ் பெறும் போது, தண்டனைக்காக நீதிமன்ற அங்கீகாரத்தை கோரும் மேலதிக அதிகாரமும் வழங்கப்பட்டுள்ளது.

புதிய சட்டத்தை வரைந்து வர்த்தமானி அறிவித்தலில் வெளியிட்ட பின்னர், சிவில் சமூகச் செயற்பாட்டாளர்கள் இச்சட்டத்தின் மூலம் அரசியலமைப்பின் அடிப்படை உரிமைகள் மீறப்படுவதாக பிரகடனப்படுத்தி, உயர் நீதிமன்றத்தில் மனுக்களை சமர்ப்பித்ததோடு, உயர் நீதிமன்றம் மனுக்களைப் பொருட்படுத்தாமல் மரண தண்டனையை கொண்டுவருவதன் மூலம் அனைத்தும் ஏற்கனவே இருந்ததை விட மோசமான நிலைக்கு தள்ளப்பட்டுள்ளது.

புதிய பயங்கரவாத எதிர்ப்புச் சட்டமூலம் தொடர்பாக இலங்கையின் பல்வேறு மாகாணங்களிலும் இடம்பெற்ற கலந்துரையாடல்களின்போது மதத் தலைவர்கள், ஊடகவியலாளர்கள் மற்றும் சமூகச் செயற்பாட்டாளர்கள் பலர் வருகை தந்திருந்தனர். பல பெண்களின் குழுக்களினால் இக்கலந்துரையாடல்கள் ஏற்பாடு செய்யப்பட்டன. இவற்றில் உருவாகிய முக்கியமான கருத்துக்களும் கோரிக்கைகளும் பின்வருமாறு: ஏற்கனவே அமுலில் உள்ள பயங்கரவாததத் தடைச் சட்டத்தை நீக்கவேண்டிய அதேவேளை புதியதோர் சட்டம் அவசியம் இல்லை என்பதாகும். மட்டக்களப்பில் இடம்பெற்ற ஒரு கலந்துரையாடலில் பங்குபற்றிய 3 தமிழ் நாடாளுமன்ற உறுப்பினர்கள் கூறியதாவது: இந்த வரைபை அவர்கள் எதிர்ப்பதாகக் குறிப்பிட்டனர். ஆனால், தமிழ் தேசியக் கூட்டமைப்பு இது பற்றி தெளிவான ஒரு நிலைப்பாட்டை வெளியிடவில்லை. பழைய மற்றும் புதிய பயங்கரவாதத் தடைச் சட்டத்திற்கும் தெளிவான எதிர்ப்பை சுட்டிக்காட்டிய ஒரே அரசியற் கட்சி மக்கள் விடுதலை முன்னணி மாத்திரமே என்பதை இங்கு குறிப்பிட்டேயாக வேண்டும்.

கடந்த 6ஆம் திகதி, இச்சட்டம் தொடர்பாக 20 நாடாளுமன்ற உறுப்பினர்களை உள்ளடக்கிய துறைசார் மேற்பார்வைக் குழுவின் கூட்டம் இடம்பெற்றது. இதன்போது சிவில் சமூகச் செயற்பாட்டாளர்கள் மற்றும் சுயாதீன சட்டத்தரணிகளுடன் இது பற்றிய கலந்துரையாடல் இடம்பெற்றது. அடுத்த கூட்டம் பெப்ரவரி மாதம் 20ஆம் திகதி (நாளை) இடம்பெறவுள்ளது. அன்றைய திகதிக்கு முன்னர் இது பற்றிய எழுத்து மூலமான சமர்ப்பணங்களை வழங்குமாறு வருகை தந்தோரிடம் கேட்டுக்கொள்ளப்பட்டது. பெப்ரவரி 11ஆம் திகதி இது தொடர்பாக இடம்பெற்ற கலந்துரையாடலின் போது வெளிவிவகாரஅமைச்சர் பயங்கரவாதத் தடைச் சட்டத்தை அமுல்படுத்தும்போது மனித உரிமை மீறல்கள் இடம்பெற்றதை ஏற்றுக்கொண்டாலும், அத்தகைய ஒரு புதிய சட்டத்தின் தேவையை உறுதியான நிலைப்பாடாக முன்னெடுத்தார். அரச தரப்பினரினதும் சட்டத்தரணிகளினதும் சட்டமா அதிபர் திணைக்களத்தினதும் கருத்து பின்வருமாறு அமைந்துள்ளது, “புதிய சட்டம் அத்தியாவசியமானது – தற்போது சிறு சிறு மாற்றங்களை மாத்திரமே செய்ய முடியும்.”

ஏற்கனவே, அமுலில் உள்ள பயங்கரவாதத் தடைச் சட்டம் மற்றும் புதிய வரைவு ஆகிய இரண்டின் மூலம் தடுத்து வைக்கப்படுவோரின் உயிர்வாழ்வுக்கான பாதுகாப்பு, சுதந்திரம், உடல் உள நலத்திற்கான அச்சுறுத்தல் ஏற்படும் அதேவேளை, அடிப்படை மனித உரிமைகள் மட்டுப்படுத்தப்படுகின்றன. அதேசமயம் பரந்துபட்டதும் தெளிவற்றதுமான வரைவிலக்கணங்களின் மூலம், சட்ட ரீதியாக வேறு கருத்துக்கள் முன்வைக்கப்படுகின்றன. அடிப்படை உரிமைகளை அனுபவிப்பதற்கும் ஜனநாயகப் பிரஜைகள் என்ற வகையில் செயற்படுவதும், பயங்கரவாத நடவடிக்கைகளாக மாறுகின்றன. அதேசமயம், இதன் மூலம் நீதிமன்ற மேற்பார்வையையும் தற்றுணிபையும் குறைக்கும், அமைச்சரினதும் பொலிஸாரினதும் ஆயுதப் படைகளினதும் கரையோரப் பாதுகாவலர்களினதும் தற்றுணிபுக்கு ஏற்ப நடவடிக்கைகளை மேற்கொள்வதற்கு அத்துமீறிய அதிகாரங்கள் அல்லது பாரிய அதிகாரங்கள் வழங்கப்படுகின்றன. அடிப்படையில் பொலிஸாரும் அமைச்சரும் விசாரணையாளர்களும் நீதிபதிகளும உரிய வகிபாகத்தை மேற்கொள்கின்றனர்.

தேசிய பாதுகாப்பு, பயங்கரவாதம் ஆகிய சொற்களைப் பயன்படுத்தி, நீதிமன்றம் மேற்பார்வை செய்யாமல் இருப்பதற்கும் இச்சட்டத்தில் ஏற்பாடுகள் உண்டு. இதனூடாக சிவில் சமூக வாழ்க்கை இராணுவ மயமாக்கப்பட முடியும். அதேவேளை சட்டத்தின் ஆட்சியினூடாக நிர்வகிக்கப்படும் ஜனநாயக சமூகம் அமுலில் உள்ள ஒரு நாட்டிற்குப் பதிலாக தேசிய பாதுகாப்பை முன்னுரிமைப்படுத்தி அதிகாரபூர்வமான ஓர் ஆட்சியாக சமூகம் மாறக்கூடும். இது நல்லிணக்கத்திற்கு பாதகமாகவே அமையும். இதன் மூலம் அதிகாரத்திலுள்ளோருக்கு இனத்துவம், மொழி, மதம் மற்றும் அரசியல் கருத்திற்கு ஏற்ப தம்முடன் உடன்படாத குழுக்களை ஒடுக்குவதற்கு சந்தர்ப்பம் கிடைக்கின்றது. அது எதிர்கால நெருக்கடிக்கு (பயங்கரவாத்தை தடை செய்யும் சட்டத்தின் வரலாற்றை நோக்குகையில் இடம்பெற்றது போலவே) காரணமாக அமையலாம்.

பயங்கரவாத தடைச் சட்டத்தை நீக்கி அதற்கு ஒப்பான மற்றுமோர் சட்டத்துடன் தொடர்புபடுத்துவது எந்த வகையிலும் அவசியமில்லை. நாடாளுமன்றத்தின் மூலம் கட்டாயமாக பயங்கரவாதத் தடைச் சட்டம் நீக்கப்பட வேண்டும். அதனைச் செய்ய முடியும். அமைச்சரவை புதிய சட்ட வரைவை வாபஸ் பெற வேண்டும் அல்லது நாடாளுமன்றத்தினாலேயே அது கட்டாயமாக தோல்விக்குட்படுத்தப்பட வேண்டும். தற்போது அமுலில் உள்ள சட்டங்களின் ஊடாக பயங்கரவாதம் என அடையாளப்படுத்தப்படும் தவறுகள் தொடர்பாக நடவடிக்கை எடுக்க முடியும்.

 தமித் சந்திமால் மற்றும் ருக்கி பெர்னாண்டோ

 


(17.02.2019 அனித்தா’ வாராந்திர சிங்களப் பத்திரிகையில் வெளிவந்த கட்டுரையின் தமிழாக்கம்)

නව ත්‍රස්තවාදය වැළැක්වීමේ පනත අවනීතියට අලුත් අවසරපතක්ද?

First published on Anidda newspaper of 17th February and also published at https://www.vikalpa.org/?p=34293

රස්තවාදය වැළැක්වීමේ පනත(Prevention of Terrorism Act -PTA) වසර 40කට වැඩි කාලයක් තිස්සේ වද හිංසා පැමිණවීම, ලිංගික හිංසනය, බලහත්කාරයෙන් අතුරුදහන් කිරීම සහ දීර්ඝ කාලීන ලෙස රැඳවුම් භාරයේ තබා ගැනීම සඳහා අවසර පත්‍රයක් ලෙස භාවිතා වී ඇත. ත්‍රස්තවාදී සැකකරුවන් පමණක් නොව ජනමාධ්‍යවේදීන්, සමාජ ක්‍රියාකාරීන් මේ යටතේ අත්අඩංගුවට ගත් අතර, රජයට එරෙහි විවේචනාත්මක අදහස් මර්දනය කිරීම උදෙසා මේ පනත දැඩි සේ භාවිතා වී ඇත. විශේෂයෙන්ම දෙමළ ජනතාවට එරෙහිව මෙය බොහෝ අවස්ථාවලදී වැරදි ලෙස භාවිතා විය.

වත්මන් රජය බලයට පැමිණිමෙන් පසු, මේ මර්දනකාරී ත්‍රස්තවාදය වැළැක්වීමේ පනත ඉවත් කරන බවට සහ අන්තර්ජාතික යහපත් ව්‍යවහාරයනට අනුකූල වන ත්‍රස්ත විරෝධී පනතක් ගෙන එන බවට විවිධ අවස්ථාවල පොරොන්දු ලබා දෙන ලදී. පසුගිය වසරේ සැප්තැම්බර් මාසයේ දී නව ත්‍රස්තවාදය වැළැක්වීමේ පනතේ කෙටුම්පතක් ඉදිරිපත් කරන ලද්දේ මෙහි ප්‍රතිඵලයක් ලෙසය. මෙම කෙටුම්පත ඉංග්‍රීසි භාෂාවෙන් ත්‍රස්ත විරෝධී පනත (Counter Terrorism Act – CTA) ලෙස නම් කර තිබුනත්, සිංහල බසින් පැරණි පනත හැඳින්වූ ත්‍රස්තවාදය වැළැක්වීමේ පනත ලෙසම ගැසට් කර තිබීම එක්තරා ආකාරයක සරදමකි.

ත්‍රස්තවාදය යැයි හැඳින්විය හැකි වැරදි සම්බන්ධයෙන් අදාළ වන පනත් 14ක් ද, දණ්ඩ නීති සංග්‍රහයේ වගන්ති 6 ක් ද ඇතුළුව නීති 20ක් පමණ ශ්‍රී ලංකා නීතිය තුළ පවතී. එසේම හදිසි තත්ත්ව තුළ දී කටයුතු කිරීමට ජනපතිවරයාට හදිසි නීතිය පැනවීමේ හැකියාව ඇත. මෙවැනි තත්වයක් තුළ ත්‍රස්තවාදය සම්බන්ධයෙන් වෙනම විශේෂ නීතියක අවශ්‍යතාවය හුදෙක් සුළුතරයන් සහ රජයට එරෙහි විවේචනාත්මක අදහස් මර්දනය කිරීමක් වන අතර, ත්‍රස්තවාදය මැඩලීමට පවතින නීති ප්‍රමාණවත් වන බව අපගේ මතයයි. පෙර ත්‍රස්තවාදය වැළැක්වීමේ පනත භාවිතා වූ පරිද්දෙන්ම, මෙම නව පනත විසින් ද සාමාන්‍ය ජනතාවට, ජනමාධ්‍යවේදීන්ට, සහ සමාජ ක්‍රියාකාරීන්ට හිරිහැර කිරීමට අවශ්‍ය ඉඩකඩ විධිමත්ව සපයා ඇත.

මේ පනත තුළ පුළුල්, අපැහැදිලි නිර්වචනයක් ත්‍රස්තවාදය ලෙස නම් කළ හැකි වැරැදි සම්බන්ධයෙන් ලබා දී ඇත. මේ හේතුව නිසා මේ නීතිය යොදා ගනිමින් ව්‍යවස්ථාව විසින් ලබා දී ඇති ප්‍රකාශනයේ නිදහස, එක්රැස්වීමේ සහ සමාගමයේ නිදහස සීමාවනට ලක් කිරීමට ඉඩ ඇත. මූලික මිනිස් අයිතිවාසිකමක් පවා “සද්භාවයෙන් ඉටු කළේ නම්” පමණක් ත්‍රස්තවාදී ක්‍රියාවක් ලෙස නොසැලකේ.

මෙම නීතිය යටතේ අත්අඩංගුවට ගත් පුද්ගලයා ශාරීරික හානියකට ලක් වීමෙන් ආරක්ෂා කර ගැනීම අනිවාර්ය නොවේ. අත්අඩංගුවට පත් වෙන පුද්ගලයාට අත්අඩංගුවට ගැනීමට හේතුව සහ ඊට අදාළ අනෙකුත් තොරතුරු දැනුම් දීම අනිවාර්ය නොවන අතර, පසුව එසේ කළ යුතු කාලරාමුවක් සපයාද නැත. පවුලේ අය අත්අඩංගුවට පත් වෙන අවස්ථාවේ එතැන සිටියද අත්අඩංගුවට පත් වීම ගැන විස්තර ඔවුන්ට දැනුම් දීමට පවා පැය 24ක කාලයක් ලබා දී ඇත. පවුලේ අය අත්අඩංගුවට පත් වෙන අවස්ථාවේ එතැන සිටියේ නැත්නම් ඔවුනට අත්අඩංගුවට පත්වීම සම්බන්ධයෙන් දැනුම් දීම අනිවාර්ය නොවේ. එසේම කාන්තා සැකකරුවන් කාන්තා නිලධාරීන් විසින් අත්අඩංගුවට ගැනීමට ප්‍රශ්න කරනු ලැබීමට හෝ කාන්තා නිලධාරිනියක් එතැන සිටීම අත්‍යවශ්‍ය නොවේ.

පොලිසිය විසින් නිකුත් කළ වලංගු රඳවා ගැනීම් නියෝගයකට අනුමැතිය මහේස්ත්‍රාත් විසින් ලබා දිය යුතු අතර, පුද්ගලයා සති දෙකක් දක්වා රඳවා තබා ගැනීම තීරණය කරන්නේ පොලිස් නිලධාරියාය. මේ රඳවා තබා ගැනීම් නියෝගයක්, සති 8ක් දක්වා මහේස්ත්‍රාත් අනුමැතිය ඇතිව කාලය දිගු කළ හැකිය. පොලිසිය විසින් අත්අඩංගුවට ගැනීම සම්බන්ධයෙන් මානව හිමිකම් කොමිසමට දැනුම් දීමට පැය 72ක කාලයක් ලබා දී ඇත. සැකකරුවාට ඇප ලැබෙන්නේ ඔහුගේ නඩුව වසරකට වඩා වැඩි කාලයක් ඇදි ඇදී ගිය හොත් පමණි. රැඳවියාගේ නීතිඥයාට සහ පවුලේ අයට රැඳවුම් ස්ථානයට පිවිසිය හැකි වන්නේ ස්ථානභාර නිලධාරියාගේ පූර්ව අවසරය සහිතවය. පුද්ගලයා රඳවා තබා ගන්නේ අමාත්‍යවරයකු විසින් තීරණය කරන ස්ථාන සහ තත්වයන් යටතේ ය. රඳවා තබා ගැනීම්වලට විරුද්ධව “සමාලෝචන මණ්ඩලය” වෙත අභියාචනය කළ හැකි නමුත් එම මණ්ඩලය සමන්විත වන්නේ ද අමාත්‍යවරයා, අමාත්‍යාංශ ලේකම්, සහ අමාත්‍යවරයා විසින් පත් කළ තවත් දෙදෙනෙකු ය. දේශපාලනඥයන් සහ පොලිසිය විසින් සමාජ ක්‍රියාකාරීන්ට, ජනමාධ්‍යවේදීන්ට සහ විරුද්ධ දේශපාලනඥයන්ට එරෙහිව ත්‍රස්තවාදය වැළැක්වීමේ පනත භාවිතා කිරීමේ ඉතිහාසය දෙස බලන විට, මේ පනත විසින් ඇමැතිවරයාට සහ පොලිසියට ලබා දී ඇති මේ බලතල නරියාට කුකුළු කොටුව භාර දීමක් ද යන සැකය අප වෙත නැගෙන්නේය.

පනත විසින් රැඳවියාගේ දැකිය හැකි තුවාල තිබේදැයි පරීක්ෂා කිරීමට ස්ථාන භාර නිලධාරීයා(OIC) වෙත බලය පවරන අතර, ඔහු විසින් එසේ දුටුවේ නම්, ඔහුට ඇත්තේ අධිකරණ වෛද්‍ය නිලධාරියකු වෙත රැඳවියා ඉදිරිපත් කර වාර්තාවක් ලබා ගැනීම පමණි. මහේස්ත්‍රාත්වරයකු හෝ මානව හිමිකම් කොමිසමේ නිලධාරියකු විසින් රැඳවුම් ස්ථානයට පැමිණි අවස්ථාවක රැඳවියා රඳවා ඇත්තේ මානුෂීය සැලකීමට ගැලපෙන පරිදි නොවන බව නිරීක්ෂණය කළේ නම්, ඔවුන්ට කළ හැක්කේ බන්ධනාගාර අධිකාරී වෙත හෝ පොලිස්පති වෙත හෝ දැනුම් දීම පමණකි. ඒ සම්බන්ධයෙන් ක්‍රියාමාර්ග ගෙන අදාළ ‘මානුෂික තත්වයන්’ සැපයීමට කටයුතු කිරීමට බල කිරීමට ඔවුනට හැකියාවක් නැත.

සැකකරුවන් රැඳවුම් භාරයේ සිටිය දී වද හිංසා පැමිණවීමට, සහ ලිංගික අතවර ආදියට ලක් වීම් ගැන සිදු වීම් ගණනාවක් පෙර ත්‍රස්තවාදය වැළැක්වීමේ පනත යටතේ වාර්තා වී ඇති අතර, මේ පනතේ ඉහත වගන්ති තුළින් එම තත්වය තවදුරටත් වැඩි විය හැකිය.

දැනට පවතින ත්‍රස්තවාදය වැළැක්වීමේ පනත යටතේ පොලිස් නිලධාරීන් විසින් පමණක් අත්අඩංගුවට ගැනීම, ස්ථානවලට ඇතුළු වීම, සහ භාණ්ඩ භාරයට ගැනීම ආදිය කළ යුතු වුවත්, නව පනත යටතේ ත්‍රිවිධ හමුදාවලට සහ වෙරළාරක්ෂකයන්ට ද මෙකී බලතල ලැබේ. එසේම පොලීසියට, වින්දිත පාර්ශ්වයට කරුණු දැක්වීමට අවස්ථාවක් නොදී, රැස්වීමක්, රැළියක්, හෝ ක්‍රියාකාරකමක් නැවැත්වීමට මහේස්ත්‍රාත්වරයාගෙන් ඉල්ලීමක් කළ හැකිය. එසේම ඇමැතිවරයකුට කිසියම් සංවිධානයක්, පොදු ස්ථානයක්, හෝ වෙනත් ස්ථානයක් තහනම් ස්ථානයක් බවට කාල නියමයක් රහිතව නියම කළ හැකි අතර, එසේ නියෝගයක් නිකුත් කිරීමට පෙර මෙය අභියෝගයට ලක් කිරීමට අනෙක් පාර්ශවයට අවස්ථාවක් ලැබෙන්නේ නැත. එසේම සංවිධානවල රැස්වීම්, ක්‍රියාකාරකම් සහ වැඩසටහන් පැවැත්වීම තහනම් කිරීම, බැංකු ගිණුම් සහ වෙනත් මූල්‍ය තැන්පතු භාවිතය හෝ යෙදවීම තහනම් කිරීම, ගිවිසුම්වලට එළඹීම තහනම් කිරීම, අරමුදල් රැස්කිරීම සහ ප්‍රදාන සහ දේපල පැවරීම් ලබා ගැනීම තහනම් කිරීම, අරමුදල් සහ වත්කම් පැවරීම තහනම් කිරීම, සහ සංවිධානයක් වෙනුවෙන් බලපෑම් කිරීම, ඉල්ලීම් සිදු කිරීම ආදිය සිදු කිරීම තහනම් කිරීමට ද ඇමැතිවරයාට බලය ලැබේ.

පවතින ත්‍රස්තවාදය වැළැක්වීමේ පනතින් ලබා නොදෙන මේ පනත හරහා පැවරෙන අනෙකුත් අමතර බලතල වන්නේ ජනපතිට ඇඳිරි නීතිය පැනවීමටත්, මහජන සාමය පවත්වා ගැනීමට ත්‍රිවිධ හමුදා කැඳවීමටත් ලබා දෙන බලයයි.

එසේම නව නීතිය ඔස්සේ ප්‍රසිද්ධියේ සමාව ගැනීමත්, පුනරුත්ථාපනයට ලක් වීම, සහ ප්‍රජා සේවයේ යෙදීම වැනි දෑ හරහා වරදට වන්දි ගෙවීමත් පිළි ගැනේ. මේ තත්වය තුළ නඩුවලට දීර්ඝ කාලයක් ගත වෙන නිසාත්, නීතිඥ ගාස්තු ආදිය දරා ගැනීමට නොහැකි වීම නිසාත් බොහෝ දෙනෙක් අධිකරණ ක්‍රියාවලියක් තුළ තමන්ගේ නිරවද්‍යතාවය ඔප්පු කිරීමට මහන්සි වීම වෙනුවට වරද පිළි ගැනීමට බොහෝ දුරට ඉඩ ඇත. මෙවැනි අවස්ථාවල අභිචෝදකයා වන නීතිපතිවරයාට චෝදනා අස්කර ගැනීමේ දී දඩුවම් සඳහා අධිකරණ අනුමැතිය ඉල්ලීමේ අමතර බලයක් ද ලබා දී ඇත.

මේ නීතිය කෙටුම්පත් කර ගැසට් කිරීමෙන් අනතුරුව සිවිල් ක්‍රියාකාරීහු මෙම නීතිය විසින් ව්‍යවස්ථාවේ මූලික අයිතිවාසිකම් කඩ කරන බවට ප්‍රකාශ කරමින් ශ්‍රේෂ්ඨාධිකරණයේ පෙත්සම් ගොනු කරන ලද අතර, ශ්‍රේෂ්ඨාධිකරණය විසින් ඒ කිසිවක් සැලකිල්ලකට නොගෙන මරණ දඬුවම ද ගෙන ඒමෙන් සියල්ල තිබුණාට ද වඩා නරක තත්වයකට පත් කරන ලදී.

නව ත්‍රස්තවාදය වැළැක්වීමේ පනත සම්බන්ධයෙන් දිවයිනේ විවිධ පළාත්වල පැවැත්වුනු සාකච්ඡාවලට ආගමික නායකයෝ, ජනමාධ්‍යවේදීහු සහ සමාජ ක්‍රියාකාරීහු ගණනාවක් පැමිණියහ. මේවා බොහොමයක් සංවිධානය කළේ කාන්තා කණ්ඩායම් ය. මෙම සාකච්ඡාවල මතු වූ ප්‍රධාන මතය සහ ඉල්ලීම වූයේ, පවතින ත්‍රස්තවාදය වැළැක්වීමේ පනත අහෝසි කළ යුතු අතර නව පනතක් අවශ්‍ය නැති බවයි. මඩකලපුවේ පැවැති එක් සාකච්ඡාවකට සහභාගි වූ දමිළ පාර්ලිමේන්තු මන්ත්‍රීන් තිදෙනෙකුම ප්‍රකාශ කළේ මෙම කෙටුම්පතට ඔවුන් විරෝධය දක්වන බවයි.

එහෙත් දමිළ ජාතික සන්ධානය (TNA) මේ පිළිබඳ පැහැදිලි ස්ථාවරයක් ප්‍රකාශ කර නොමැත. පැරැණි සහ නව ත්‍රස්තවාදය වැළැක්වීමේ පනත් දෙකටම පැහැදිලි විරෝධයක් පළ කර ඇති එකම දේශපාලන පක්ෂය වන්නේ ජනතා විමුක්ති පෙරමුණයි.

පසුගිය 6 වැනිදා මෙම නීතිය සම්බන්ධයෙන් පාර්ලිමේන්තු මන්ත්‍රීවරු 20 දෙනෙකුගෙන් යුක්ත ආංශික අධීක්ෂණ කාරක සභාවේ රැස්වීම පැවැත්වුනි. එහිදී සිවිල් ක්‍රියාධරයන්, සහ ස්වාධීන නීතිඥයන් සමග මේ පිළිබඳව සාකච්ඡා වුනි. මීලඟ රැස්වීම පෙබරවාරි 20 වැනි දින පැවැත්වීමට එකඟ වී ඇති අතර, එදිනට පෙර මෙය පිළිබඳව ලිඛිත ඉදිරිපත් කිරීම් ලබා දෙන ලෙස පැමිණි සිටි අයගෙන් ඉල්ලා සිටින ලදී. පෙබරවාරි 11 වැනි දින මේ පිළිබඳව පැවැති සාකච්ඡාවක දී විදේශ කටයුතු ඇමැතිවරයා ත්‍රස්තවාදය වැළැක්වීමේ පනත ක්‍රියාත්මක කිරීම තුළ මානව හිමිකම් උල්ලංඝණය වීම් සිදු වූ බව පිළිගත්තත්, එවැනිම නව පනතක් අවශ්‍යය යන දැඩි ස්ථාවරයේ සිටියේය. රජයේ පාර්ශ්වයේ සිටි නීතිඥවරුන්ගේ සහ නීතිපති දෙපාර්තමේන්තුවේ මතය වී ඇත්තේ ද නව පනතක් අත්‍යවශ්‍ය බව සහ දැනට කළ හැක්කේ අවම වෙනස්කම් පමණක් බවත්ය.

පවතින ත්‍රස්තවාදය වැළැක්වීමේ පනත(PTA) සහ අලුත් කෙටුම්පත(CTA) යන දෙකින්ම රැඳවියන්ගේ ජීවිත ආරක්ෂාව, නිදහස, ශාරීරික හා මානසික යහපැවැත්මට තර්ජනයක් වන අතර, මූලික මිනිස් අයිතිවාසිකම් සීමා කරයි. එසේම පුළුල්, සහ අපැහැදිලි නිර්වචන තුළින්, නීත්‍යනුකූල ලෙස වෙනස් අදහස් ප්‍රකාශ කිරීමට, මූලික මිනිස් අයිතිවාසිකම් අත්විඳීම සහ ප්‍රජාතන්ත්‍රවාදී පුරවැසියන් ලෙස කටයුතු කිරීම ත්‍රස්තවාදී ක්‍රියා බවට පත් කරයි. එසේම එයින් අධිකරණමය අධීක්ෂණය සහ අභිමතිය අඩු කරන අතර, අමාත්‍යවරයාගේ, පොලිසියේ, හමුදාවේ, සහ වෙරළාරක්ෂකයන්ගේ අභිමතයට කටයුතු කිරීමට සුවිසල් බලතල සපයයි. මූලික වශයෙන් පොලිසිය සහ අමාත්‍යවරයා විසින් විමර්ශකයාගේ සහ විනිසුරුගේ යන දෙදෙනාගේම භූමිකාවන් ඉටු කරයි.

ජාතික ආරක්ෂාව’ සහ ‘ත්‍රස්තවාදී” යන වචන භාවිතා කරමින්, අධිකරණය අධීක්ෂණයන් නොකර සිටීමට මේ පනත තුළ ප්‍රතිපාදන ඇත. මේ හරහා සිවිල් ජීවිතය හමුදාකරණය විය හැකි අතර, නීතියේ ආධිපත්‍යය හරහා පාලනය වන ප්‍රජාතන්ත්‍රවාදී සමාජයක පවතින රටක් වෙනුවට ජාතික ආරක්ෂාව ප්‍රමුඛත්වය ගත් බලාධිකාරී රෙජීමයක් බවට පරිවර්තනය විය හැකිය.

මෙය සංහිඳියාවට හානි කර වනු ඇත්තේ, එය විසින් බලයේ සිටින අයට ජනවාර්ගිකත්වය, භාෂාව, ආගම, සහ දේශපාලනික අදහස් අනුව තමන් සමග එකඟ නොවන කණ්ඩායම් මර්දනය කිරීමට ඉඩ ලැබෙනු ඇති නිසාය. එය අනාගත අර්බුදයකට (ත්‍රස්තවාදය වැළැක්වීමේ පනතේ ඉතිහාසය දෙස බලන කල සිදුවූවාක් මෙන්) හේතු සාධක විය හැකිය. ත්‍රස්තවාදය වැළැක්වීමේ පනත ඉවත් කිරීම එහා සමාන තවත් නීතියක් සමග සම්බන්ධ කිරීමේ කිසිදු අවශ්‍යතාවයක් ඇත්තේ නැත. පාර්ලිමේන්තුව විසින් අනිවාර්යෙන්ම ත්‍රස්තවාදය වැළැක්වීමේ පනත ඉවත් කළ යුතු අතර, එය කළ හැක්කකි. කැබිනට් මණ්ඩලය විසින් නව පනත් කෙටුම්පත අකුලා ගැනීම හෝ පාර්ලිමේන්තුව විසින් එය පරාජය කිරීම අනිවාර්යයෙන්ම සිදු විය යුත්තකි. දැනට පවතින නීතින් හරහා ත්‍රස්තවාදය යැයි හඳුන්වන වැරදි සම්බන්ධයෙන් කටයුතු කළ හැකිය.

(දමිත් චන්දිමාල් සහ රුකී ප්‍රනාන්දු)

Keppapulavu: Land Struggle Reaches Boiling Point after 700 days of protest

First published at https://groundviews.org/2019/01/22/keppapulavu-land-struggle-reaches-boiling-point-after-700-days-of-protest/ on 22nd January 2019

“We want to sleep, cook, eat in our own house and farm our own land”

700 days is a long time for a day and night protest outside an Army camp. Since March 1, 2017, the people of Keppapulavu, located in the Mullaitheevu district in Northern Sri Lanka, have been doing just that. They have had to brave intimidation and harassment from the Army, Police and intelligence agencies, and also brave the sun, rain, heat, cold and dust. They have faced challenges in continuing their livelihoods, sending children to school and caring for their elderly. It is the longest running community-led day and night continuous protest for land in Sri Lanka. They have also engaged in protests in Colombo and elsewhere, and have participated in meetings with government politicians, local Tamil politicians, government officials, the media, religious clergy, representatives of international community and others.

Last year, President Sirisena promised to return occupied lands in the North and East by December 31, 2018. When this promise was broken, Keppapulavu residents marched to the Army camp and demanded their land. The Army refused to speak to them. In subsequent discussions with government officials, an Assistant Government Agent (AGA) had promised them their land would be released by January 25, 2019.

Soon after, one of the staff officers of the newly appointed Northern Governor had met some members of the Keppalulavu community. Afterwards, on Sunday, (January 20) the Governor also met them. Both had requested more time, but the community members, who had seen so many similar “time-buying” exercises, insisted that January 25 be the final day when all the land would be returned to them. One lady had asked the Governor whether he was going to ensure release of land by January 25, or whether he wished to see the guns of the Army turned on her and other villagers.

“If our lands are not released by 25th January, we will go and reclaim our lands” is what the villagers told me, and what they had told the Army, the Governor of the Northern Province and government officials in meetings they had had the last few days and weeks.

The occupied land sits between the main road between Puthukudiyiruppu and Vattrapalai and borders the Nanthikadal lagoon. It’s very fertile agricultural land and the lagoon has plenty of fish, prawns and crabs. “We can cross our legs and sit in the garden and still have enough food” one man told me. In addition to the houses, most of the community buildings such as the community hall, school, Rural Development Society (RDS) and places with strong emotional attachments such as the church and cemetery remain occupied by the Army. The community life in this village, woven around agriculture and fishing, and the traditional and rich cultural and religious practices, was destroyed first by the war and then by the Army occupation.

“We work hard, fish, farm, and the Army which gets government salaries, enjoys the fruits of trees in our gardens, lives in our houses, and use our community buildings” says Vivekanandan, a villager from Kepapulavu. He goes on, “Why can’t they at least allow us to enjoy the fruits of trees in our gardens?”

His home, as well as the land and homes of other Keppapulavu residents’, now Army-occupied, was visible from across the road, with the beautiful view of Nanthikadal lagoon beyond it. Listening to them was heart breaking as well as making me angry.

“Why are they (the Army) in our houses, our lands, when there is so much forest land around the area?”

“We want to live peacefully with Sinhalese. Why are they (Army) obstructing this by occupying our land? Do they want Prabhakaran (the late leader of the LTTE) to come back?” was another question that was raised.

I recalled similar sentiments heard during my previous visits spanning several years. “Every year our land changes more and more. Some houses have been destroyed. The wells have been closed. Other buildings have been put up. Boundaries have been demarcated differently. But the jak and coconut trees which we planted have started bearing fruit.”

“When I enter my home, it feels as fondly familiar to me as the love of my mother and father…”

I had known some of these community members for around 10 years, when they were being detained in “Menik Farm”. Even then, they always talked about the richness and beauty of their lands and their yearning to return. Even when I met them after they had been compelled to accept alternative lands in a nearby jungle area, they insisted on the right to return to their own land.

The day I visited Keppapulavu was also the day President Sirisena had visited nearby Mulliyawalai, around 10 kilometres away from the protest site. But the long suffering and struggling Keppapulavu people were clearly not of concern to the President who is the son of a farmer, and from an agricultural area.

It is now nearly 10 years since the end of the war. And it is more than 10 years since the Army had forcibly occupied Keppapulavu. For the people of Keppapulavu, justice, peace and reconciliation remain empty words – until and unless they are able to return to their houses, lands, and way of life.

As they said, “We have survived the war but, now we have to die for our lands!”

Iranaitivu: eight months after reclaiming land from the Navy

First published at http://www.sundayobserver.lk/2019/01/13/news-features/iranaitivu-eight-months-after-reclaiming-land-navy on 13th January 2019

Iranaitivu is also a story of resilient community consolidating their claim of the land by reinvigorating their traditional livelihoods and strengthening community institutions. But the missing factor is the Government. At least now, the Government must step in, ensure reparations, and facilitate resettlement.

It was on April 23, 2017 that I joined the Iranaitivu residents in their journey to reclaim their traditional island, which had been denied to them by the Navy for more than 25 years. When I visited last week with some friends and colleagues, I again experienced their love for their land, resilience and determination to strive in their traditional home.

Fighting restrictions on accessing the island

There are no passenger boats between the mainland and the island, hence the fisheries cooperative had arranged a special boat for us. The boat ride was beautiful, but not easy. We had to brave the hot sun, shallow waters in which the engine stalled and rough seas in which we were drenched with sea water. But it was a journey well worth its while.

“I could not help but imagine the precarious journeys these Islanders would have undertaken during the years the war intensified in this region and the natural barrier it would have posed to leaving their valuable belongings when they were suddenly displaced.I had heard that both Sri Lankans and non-Sri Lankans have been stopped from going to the island by the Navy officers and not surprisingly, we were also stopped when we tried boarding the boat from the mainland.

The officers kept insisting on my disclosing my profession and reasons for going to the island, even as I tried to patiently explain constitutional rights of freedom of movement, and asking them based on what laws were they stopping us and demanding some form of special authorisation.

The Human Rights Commission intervened swiftly, and informed us that the North Central Commander for the Navy had clarified that there was no legal restrictions and anyone was free to go to Iranaitivu.

The officers who stopped us became apologetic, and tried to explain their concern was rough seas and dangerous animals on the island, but were helpless to answer when asked why a special authorisation based on profession and purpose was necessary to ward off these new concerns. Refreshingly, the next day, journalists were allowed to travel to Iranaitivu without obstructions, and I hope more people will visit and assert their right to movement.

My previous landings were on the larger island of Periatheevu, but this time, we landed on the smaller island of Sinnatheevu. We met several people who were repairing St. Sebastians Church, a small church on Sinnatheevu, the feast of which they are due to celebrate today, January 13. We were shown wells with drinking water. Some had been cleaned and was the source of water for people living there. Others have been damaged or unusable due to long years of abandonment. A major challenge that needs to be addressed is a system to take the water to the other island where there is less potable water.

The ruins of the brick houses they were forced to leave were visible, often next to the thatched huts they had erected to live since April last year.

There is no motorised transport on the island except for one tiny old roofless mini-lorry. So, from the smaller island, we walked through lush greenery, small lakes and waded through a beautiful strip of sea to the larger island.

The main church in the larger island had been repaired with some assistance from the Navy. But other community buildings suh as the school, cooperative, women’s society, the residences of the priest and nuns, the hospital, the Village Council and the elaborate systems for collecting and storing rain water, both overground and underground, are still in ruins.

An elder told us that they rarely used medicine, showing us some medicinal leaves from a plant he plucked as we were walking.

They residents seemed the happiest about advances they had made in livelihoods after reclaiming the land. We saw dried fish and sea cucumber, which the women said they can harvest just by walking out to the sea in the morning and sometimes evenings as well, leaving the rest of the day free for other activities. We saw tomatoes being grown in a home garden beside a thatched hut. Others we met were repairing by hand nets for lagoon crabs and sea crabs.

There is no electricity on the island. They have received some small solar panels for basic needs from a private well-wisher, which is being used at present.

Reflections and the future

There are still many communities struggling for land around the country, especially in the North and the East. Many are due to Army and Navy occupation, such as in Jaffna, Mullikulam and Pallimunai in the Mannar district, Kepapilavu in the Mullaitheevu district and the Kanagar village and Panama in the Ampara district. I hope Iranaitivu will inspire others struggling to reclaim their lands and fighting for justice.

Iranaitivu is also an inspiring story of a resourceful and beautiful island, unjustly denied to its historical residents by the Navy, but reclaimed by a determined, sustained campaign including a 359-day continuous protest, and finally, by a well-planned, and daring sea journey and landing to reclaim the island, defying the Navy.

Well established community institutions such as the women’s group and fisheries cooperative and the parish priest was instrumental in the community’s survival during decades of displacement and the struggle to reclaim their lands.

Support from other Catholic clergy, activists, media and international community was also important. Iranaitivu is also a story of a resilient community consolidating their claiming of the land by reinvigorating their traditional livelihoods and strengthening community institutions.

But the missing factor is the Government. At least now, the Government must step in, ensure reparations, and facilitate resettlement. Among those who are unable to live on the island are school-going children and some of their family members, which indicates the urgency to rebuild and restart the school on the island as soon as possible.

The hospital also needs to be rebuilt and the school and hospital needs to be adequately staffed. Rebuilding houses, cleaning the wells and installing a water distribution system is urgent. Community buildings too need to be rebuilt.

Government officials must be present on the island. New projects could be initiated, such as for electricity, particularly by exploring the option of solar-power.

Passenger transport boats between the island and the mainland, and at least some minimal transport facilities within the island for emergencies and essential needs need to be established.

 

The terror of counter-terror laws

First published at http://www.sundayobserver.lk/2018/10/21/opinion/terror-counter-terror-laws on 21st October 2018

With the second reading of the Counter Terrorism Bill scheduled for Tuesday (23), rights activists are still raising grave concerns about the proposed legislation.

For about 40 years, the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) served as a license for torture, sexual violence, enforced disappearances, and prolonged detention. Three years have passed since the governmental commitment to repeal it, and it must be done now.

There are also many problematic clauses in the draft of the proposed new counter terror law,which has been tabled in parliament, with the original Sinhalese name, and a new English name – “Counter Terrorism”. Crimes must be prevented and responded to, including serious ones termed as “terrorism” and we already have a plethora of laws to do this. It is also possible to amend existing laws to include any new types of crimes that are not included. Therefore there is no need for a new counter terror law.

We have been living in a state of almost continuous emergency for about 40 years from1971 to 2011. Emergency regulations were reintroduced in March 2018 for a short period when there was violence against Muslims around Kandy. Under the Public Security Ordinance (PSO), the President has absolute discretion, without judicial scrutiny, to declare a state of emergency and ‘emergency regulations’ that can override all laws except the Constitution. Parliament can extend such emergency laws beyond 14 days. Emergency regulations can take away procedural protections on arrests, detention, and trials, which are guaranteed under criminal law, and they can be used for entry, search, seizure of assets and properties, providing powers of arrest to the armed forces, and accepting confessions made to the police. 1

Emergency regulations have also introduced definitions of terrorism. Our Constitution also provides for restrictions of rights2 in the name of national security, without them even being required to be ‘proportionate’. In addition to the PSO and emergency regulations, Sri Lanka has about 15 other laws,3 which can deal with offences that are listed under the proposed counter-terrorism law.

The Bill contains vague and broadly worded definitions of the intention required for the offence of terrorism:4 The defined actions include ones that can infringe on dissent and fundamental rights guaranteed under the constitution.5 Even the exception clause to the above – the exercising of a fundamental right – is subject to that of being done in “good faith”.

There is no compulsion to protect an arrested person from physical harm. Conveying information about the arrest to the arrestee in her or his own language is not compulsory and where it cannot be given immediately, there is no specified time frame to do so. Even if family members are present at the time of arrest, there is a 24 hour period provided, to notify the family of the arrest details. If family members are not present at the time of arrest, serving acknowledgement of arrest is not compulsory. It is not compulsory for female suspects to be questioned by female officers or have a female officer present.

The time frame for a detainee to be produced before a Magistrate is doubled to 48 hours from the 24 hours limit allowed under ordinary laws, increasing the possibility of abuse. A person could be remanded for upto one year without charges and without bail.

Through Detention Orders (DOs) a police officer can tell the judiciary (a Magistrate) what to do, and the Magistrate must obey, in terms of detaining a person, granting bail or discharging an arrestee. These DOs can last up to two weeks at a time and with approval of a Magistrate, can be then extended for eight weeks. Detention is in places and conditions decided by a Minister. Appeals against DOs are to be made to a“Board of Review”, comprising the Minister the Ministry’s Secretary, and two others appointed by the Minister. A detained suspect’s lawyer and family can only access her or him with the prior permission of the Officer in Charge (OIC) of the detention facility or prison.

Lawyers cannot be present during interview and taking of statements. Police are given 72 hours to notify the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) of a detention under a DO, but no time frame is given for the HRCSL to be given a copy of the DO. The Bill gives power to an OIC to do a medical examination of a detainee to check for visible injuries, and if there are visible injuries, the OIC only has to produce a suspect before a Judicial Medical Officer(JMO)and obtain a report.

If a Magistrate or the HRCSL thinks a place of detention/remand does not conform to the requirements of humane treatment (after a visit), they are to notify the Inspector General of Police/Superintendent of Prisons. However, neither of them are obliged to provide ‘whatever is necessary for humane treatment’.

Under the PTA, only police officers can make arrests, enter premises, conduct searches, and seize material, but the new Bill also grants sweeping powers to the armed forces and the coast guard. Police can seek an order from a magistrate to stop a gathering, a meeting, rally or activity, without a chance for an affected party to be heard. A Minister can proscribe an organization and declare any public place or any other location as a prohibited place indefinitely- without prior possibility for the affected to challenge this- powers that even the PTA doesn’t provide for. Additional powers that the Bill provides but the PTA does not have, are for the President to declare a curfew and call out armed forces so as to maintain public order.

The PTA only allowed seizure and forfeiture of properties of a convicted person, but the new draft law expands this to include those acquitted by courts or anyone else.

The Bill also legitimizes acceptance of a penalty such as a public apology, or reparation to victims of the offence- such as undergoing rehabilitation or engaging in community service. In the context of decades long court cases and high legal costs, the threat of fresh charges with high penalties may compel individuals to admit guilt rather than establish their innocence in a Court of law. The Bill also allows the Attorney General, the prosecutor, to play a judicial role by imposing penalties when withdrawing charges.

The new draft Bill improves on some of the draconian provisions of the PTA, but also goes on to provide the Minister, President, armed forces more powers than the PTA. We must not lower our standards to use a much abused draconian law like the PTA as a benchmark for any new law.

Extraordinary powers should always be an exception for limited purposes, limited periods and a limited geographical area, but the new law is a permanent all island law. It introduces offences that are vague and could criminalize exercise of human rights and dissent. It reduces checks and balances to safeguard life, liberty and wellbeing, reduces judicial discretion and grants extraordinary powers to a Minister, police, army and coastguard on top of the wide powers they could exercise even now through proclamation of emergency by the President. These are powers that have been heavily abused in the past and the new bill can facilitate continuation of such abuses. It can permanently militarize civil life, based more on security obsessed authoritarianism than democracy and rule of law. This must be opposed.

(The writer is a rights activist. A significant part of his work in the last few years has been about those detained under the PTA and those released. He has also been detained under the PTA, has a pending investigation for four and half years, and a court order restricting his freedom of expression)

[1]In the past, this has even included bypassing inquests required under ordinary laws for death of persons caused by the police or the army, or the death of persons while in their custody, and made it mandatory for all media organizations to submit their reports to the ‘Competent Authority’ prior to publication or broadcast.

[2]Such as right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, freedoms of expression, assembly, association, and movement, equality before the law and non-discrimination.

[3] For example, Penal Code, Code of Criminal Procedure, Offences Against Aircraft Act No. 24 Of 1982, Suppression Of Unlawful Acts Of Violence At Airports Serving International Civil Aviation No. 31 Of 1996, Suppression Of Unlawful Acts Against The Safety Of Maritime Navigation No. 42 Of 2000, Prevention Of Hostage Taking No. 41 Of 2000, Prevention And Punishment Of Crimes Against Internationally Protected Persons No. 15 Of 1991, Suppression Of Terrorist Bombings Act, No. 11 Of 1999, Chemical Weapons Convention No.58 Of 2007,, Convention On The Suppression Of Terrorist Financing Act No. 25 Of 2005, Financial Transactions Reporting Act No. 6 Of 2006, Prevention of Money Laundering Act No. 05 of 2006 (as amended), Proscribing of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and Other Similar Organizations Law No. 16 of 1978, SAARC Regional Convention On Suppression Of Terrorism Act No. 70 Of 1988, United Nations Act No 45 of 1968 and regulations made under that to deal with terrorist financing and money laundering and which has led to listing of persons and organizations.

[4] Such as “intimidate a population”, “wrongfully or unlawfully compelling the government of Sri Lanka, or any other government, or an international organization, to do or to abstain from doing any act”, “prevent any such government from functioning” or “causing harm to the territorial integrity or sovereignty of Sri Lanka or any other sovereign country”.

[5]obstruction to essential services, obstruction, interference to any electronic or automated system and causing serious risk to safety of a section of a public.

The Struggle for Justice

First published at http://groundviews.org/2018/10/20/the-struggle-for-justice/ on 20th October 2018

Editor’s Note: The following are excerpts from a speech made at the Human Rights Education Award ceremony at the Law & Human Rights Centre in Jaffna, on 19th Oct. 2018

Dear friends,

I want to congratulate the Law and Human Rights Centre for organising this course. It is difficult but very important to do this in Jaffna, a place that sees continuing rights violations, impunity for serious violations in the past and courageous dissent and resistance, be it through protests, the arts, writing, or filing court cases.

Rights violations and struggles for justice

Today, after this event, I will be going to the Jaffna Press Club – for a commemorative event to remember life and work of Nimalarajan, a Tamil journalist killed on 19th October 2000. He is among many Tamil journalists killed, disappeared, assaulted, threatened, and intimidated during and after the war. No one has been held accountable. For many, justice for Tamil journalists appear to be less important than justice for Sinhalese journalists. Even now, Tamil journalists continue to face threats, intimidation, surveillance, interrogation. Not just them, but also families and friends.

This year and last year has been a year of protests in Sri Lanka – especially in the North and East. This includes continuous protests for more than one and half years by families of disappeared and by communities whose lands are occupied by the military. In addition to long drawn out roadside protests, families of the disappeared in Mannar and Vavuniya have published books documenting their stories. Some have met the President, others have made representations to international community representatives in Sri Lanka and Geneva. Some have filed court cases. Some of the leaders have been assaulted, threatened, intimidated and subjected to interrogation and surveillance. Even those inside prisons have been protesting – such as female detainees and political prisoners engaging in hunger strikes.

There have been a few significant victories emerging from these struggles. For example, last year, month long overnight roadside protests by communities in Pilakudiyiruppu and Puthukudiyiruppu led to the release of Army and Air Force-occupied lands. This year, the people of Iranaitheevu made a daring landing on their Navy-occupied island and reclaimed their traditional lands. Hunger strikes by political prisoners have led to reversal of unjust transfer of cases from Tamil areas to Sinhalese areas, and release on bail of some. Sandya Ekneligoda, whose husband disappeared, was threatened by a rough Buddhist Monk Gnanasara while inside court in 2016 – she refused mediation, insisted and courageously pursed justice in courts and finally, Gnanasara was convicted and put behind bars. These are exceptions to the rule, but it’s good to recall these struggles, and see what we can learn from those that were leading and involved in these.

We also need to be conscious of rights abuses, injustice and repression from non-state parties. Last month, a film looking at Tamil militancy, including the LTTE, in a critical way, was removed from the Jaffna film festival due to pressure from some people in Jaffna. Earlier this week, a photo exhibition, a substantial part of which included photos about rights violations in the North and East including disappearances and land, was not allowed to be held in the Peradeniya University by a student group. Last year, several months long protest was held against caste based oppression in Jaffna.

Protests have been held across the North and East against unjust schemes by microfinancecompanies that pushes people into debt and even suicide. The Catholic Archbishop of Colombo preached that human rights are not so important, that it’s a Western concept, that it’s only for people without religions, despite strong views supporting international human rights framework by successive Popes including Pope Francis. Most Muslim men and clergy resist reform of the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act (MMDA) which legalises blatant discrimination of women and child marriage of girls. Some Buddhist clergy and their followers have been at forefront of violence against Christians and Muslims. Even as we try hold the state accountable, we must also expose and challenge armed groups, business enterprises, religious groups and in general oppressive social – cultural practices that facilitates, justifies and promotes rights abuses and undermines struggles for justice.

It is also a challenge to critically engage with new laws and institutions that we are faced with. These often fall short of legitimate expectations of survivors, victim families and affected communities. They are often compromised, or seek to whitewash old and existing violations and paint a rosy picture of the present situation. The Office on Missing Persons (OMP) established earlier this year and the Act on Reparations approved in Parliament last month are examples. But they also offer tiny rays of hope for a minimal degree of redress to at least a few survivors, victim families and affected communities and thus, we should be careful about rejecting them totally or boycotting them. The Right to Information Act and the Commission is an example of a recent development that have provided answers to some citizens who proactively sought answers about what’s hidden – such as military occupied land and military run businesses, entitlements in terms of flood relief etc.

I want to spend some time to talk about another draft law that’s before parliament now. The Counter Terrorism Bill. We must all stand for immediate and long overdue repeal of the PTA – the Prevention of Terrorism Act. But we must resist the temptation to compare the Counter Terrorism Act with the draconian PTA, and instead, focus on looking at extremely problematic clauses of the CTA which have the potential to restrict our rights and takes away essential lifesaving checks and balances in face of arrest and detention. It is not even compulsory to have a female officer question a female. It is not compulsory to serve acknowledgement of arrest and detention to family of the detainee. The draft restricts roles of the judiciary and confers extraordinary powers to the police, military, the Minister and the President. But we must also ask the more fundamental question of why we need a CTA, especially when we have a Public Security Ordinance, which gives enormous discretionary powers to the President to declare emergency regulations? Why do we need a CTA when our constitution allows restrictions on fundamental rights in special circumstances including for national security? When we have around 15 other laws, including those dealing with terrorism, hate speech that may cause communal disharmony, and money laundering? Laws such as the PTA, have served as license for enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrest and prolonged periods of detention, torture and sexual violence, and crackdowns on freedom of expression, assembly, association and movement. This is true for Sri Lanka and across the world. In Sri Lanka, it is Tamils who have been disproportionately affected by PTA and it is crucial that the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) which is the major political alliance representing Tamils in parliament, and also the opposition party, stands for the full repeal of the PTA, highlights the problematic clauses of the new counter terror law and oppose it’s enactment. And I believe all of us, especially Tamils in the North and East, must demand this from the TNA.

Human Rights Education and certificates

We cannot talk about human rights education, human rights courses and diplomas isolated from the above context. I would like to mention three elements I consider to be important in human rights education. One is the need to study philosophy, history, laws, institutions, gaining skills to research, theorise, analyse. Secondly, to learn about rights violations and abuses. Thirdly, to learn about struggles for justice. I have not followed any course or diploma in human rights, and learned the first in the process of the being involved in the second and the third. Unlike the first, the last two cannot be studied from the comfort of meeting rooms, or in hotels, classrooms, libraries or research online. We have to learn about violations and struggles against them from survivors of violations, families of victims and affected communities. By meeting them where they are – such as in their homes, in hospitals, prisons, IDP camps, or by joining them in their struggles – at a roadside protest, a hunger strike, an overnight vigil, in court battles, or negotiating with authorities.

I’m aware that some of you in the class, your friends, and your family members may also be survivors of violations. Some of you maybe already be involved in struggles for justice. I was impressed when most of you following the course agreed to visit the families of disappeared at the overnight roadside protest. And I’m happy to hear that some who participated are involved in LHRC work as volunteers.

Today, you will get a certificate. Receiving a certificate can be a nice feeling, give a sense of achievement, and practically, they can help you advance in your education and career. The certificate is a small indicator of you completing the course on human rights. But the real indicator of learning about human rights will be from what you do to prevent violations, fight against them, and support the struggles of survivors, victim families and affected communities. You may not get certificates when you do this, but instead, face persecution and reprisals from state, from your own community, colleagues, friends and families. I have faced and still face such challenges and often ask myself whether it was worth it. I hope you will rise to this challenge. I hope the course will support the emergence of a new generation of activists and strengthen ongoing struggles for justice.