Colombo NGOs register complaint over threatening web report

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 09 March 2010, 12:02 GMT]
Executive directors of two NGOs, the Center for Policy Alternatives (CPA), a Colombo-based think tank, and Transparency International, Sri Lanka (TISL), have written a protest letter to Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapakse complaining about a news report in a Colombo website which said that "[Sri Lanka] state intelligence agencies have been compiling a list or lists of individuals supportive of the opposition, and that CPA's Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, and TISL's Weliamuna have been placed on that list. While noting that CPA "cannot independently ascertain the veracity of this report," the letter said, if the report is true then "there are reasonable grounds for fear about the physical liberty and safety of the individuals concerned."

Noting that "many of the persons identified in the report have previously been targeted by way of physical violence, death threats and misinformation campaigns," the letter said, "it is impossible not to register our utmost concern, in the broader context of the crisis that Sri Lanka presently faces in respect of democratic freedoms, law and order, and the rule of law."

Dr Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu (Courtesy: Sunday Leader)
Dr Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu (Courtesy: Sunday Leader)
Weliamuna, Executive Director, TISL
Weliamuna, Executive Director, TISL
The letter gave three reasons that are causes for "serious concern" on the report that was published in Lanka News Web (the report has since been removed):

  1. In the context of the dangers faced by critics of the government including journalists, civil society activists and human rights defenders, there are reasonable grounds for fear about the physical liberty and safety of the individuals concerned. There has been no justice or punishment served by recourse to the criminal justice system in the numerous cases of killings, enforced disappearances and abductions and the entrenched culture of impunity, arbitrariness and the ineffectiveness of law enforcement have only encouraged further abuses.
  2. While the legal basis for collecting information on individuals without their consent is unclear, it is an invasion of the privacy of the concerned individuals protected by human rights standards established by international law, and specific conventions such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) binding on the Sri Lankan state, including its intelligence and security apparatus.
  3. the rationale for the compilation of this list, as the title of the report suggests, is that the selected individuals are perceived by the state intelligence agencies to be “supportive of the opposition”, that is an illegitimate and unconstitutional purpose. There is a fundamental misconception that opposition to specific actions and policies by the Government is equal to support for the opposition. It is not only a fundamental democratic principle but also part of the fundamental rights declared and protected by the Constitution that Sri Lankans are entitled to the freedoms of thought, conscience, opinion, expression, association and occupation. Furthermore the conflation of the interests of the government (i.e., the political party for the time being in power) with that of the state (i.e., the people of Sri Lanka) has proved highly problematic. In the absence of illegal or criminal behaviour, the political opinions of individuals are not a national security concern, and therefore entirely outside the remit of state intelligence agencies.
The letter, in conclusion, reiterated that "the CPA was formed on, and continues to function, within the framework of a consistent set of liberal democratic values which we believe to be the bedrock of a democratic, open and decent society, and to which we have been never less than wholly committed."


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