Friday, March 12, 2010

Sri Lanka: Fear of arrest of human rights defender Mr J.C. Weliamuna and Dr Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu

Human rights defender Mr J.C. Weliamuna, the chairperson of Transparency International in Sri Lanka (TISL), faces arrest on fabricated charges in the near future.

J.C. Weliamuna and Dr Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, the Executive Director of the Center for Policy Alternatives (CPA), have also reportedly been named on a State Intelligence Services list together with several other human rights defenders and journalists.

While the veracity of this list has not been confirmed and the purpose of any such list remains unclear, concern is expressed for those mentioned on it, as many of them have previously been subjected to physical violence, death threats and defamation campaigns.

Over the last few weeks several media outlets have published inaccurate information, allegedly on government orders, in relation to TISL's alleged misuse of funds, and have accused J.C. Weliamuna of being a “a thief who is engaged in one of the most sinister money laundering operations, collecting millions of dollars from foreign intelligence agencies, through their ‘aid’ agencies and INGO arms, under the guise of corruption fighting".

Furthermore, government media channels have aired reports accusing national and international non-governmental organisations of trying to destabilise the country and announcing that the government will carry out a campaign against these organisations.

A recent government report also insinuated that J.C. Weliamuna was responsible for a grenade attack on his own home on 27 September 2008, in an attempt to create publicity for himself. The grenade attack, in which no-one was injured, was the subject of huge public outcry at the time. However, no serious investigation took place into the incident.

On 3 March 2010, a Lanka News Web report revealed that State Intelligence Services have devised a list of 35 people who they perceive to be supportive of the opposition. J.C. Weliamuna and Dr Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu have reportedly been placed at the top of this list. Other CPA staff members are also listed.

Those identified have reportedly been categorised in accordance with the work they do and on the basis of an unspecified point system, with those at the top of the list with the highest points. According to the Lanka News Web report a brief description of each individual is included on the list.

Front Line believes that the possible arrest of J.C. Weliamuna and the media harassment campaign against TISL could be an attempt to delegitimise the organisation's work in the defence of human rights in Sri Lanka, and in particular its attempts to combat corruption in the country. Front Line is concerned for the security of J.C. Weliamuna and Dr Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu as well as all other human rights defenders who have reportedly been identified on the purported State Intelligence Services list.

© Front Line

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