by D.B.S. Jeyaraj
Running dog of the Rajapaksa regime,Mervyn Silva has threatened to break in public the bones and limbs of Journalists and Human Rights Defenders who had allegedly worked against the Country at the United Nations Human Rights Council(UNHRC) in Geneva.
Vigil on 2nd anniversary of Prageeth Eknaligoda’s disappearance-Jan 24, 2012-pic courtesy of: VikalpaSL
The Minister of Public Relations in the Rajapaksa Government made threats at a public meeting held in Kiribathgoda to condemn the resolution against Sri Lanka at the 19th session of the UNHRC in Geneva.
Mervyn Silva boasted publicly at the meeting that he was responsible for chasing out senior journalist Poddala Jayantha from the Country and warned that he would break the limbs of other journalists and human rights defenders regarded as traitors by him.
The Gampaha district MP who hails from the Hambantota district named persons like Nimalka Fernando, Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, Sunanda Deshapriya and Poddala Jayantha as traitors and threatened he would break their bones in public.
The “Rajapaksa Rottweiler” stated openly that “even if a Tsunami flowed from Sigiriya, no Tsunami would flow against him from Rajapaksa” meaning there would be no action taken against him by President Rajapaksa.
Referring to the President as the King of the Country Mervyn Silva said “ I know the sons of D.A. Rajapaksa from the time they were kids. The King of this country loves me, the King of this country trusts me”.
Excerpts from News reports about Mervyn Silva’s open threats in Sri Lankan newspapers are reproduced below –
A news report in “Daily Mirror” under the heading “Mervyn threatens to break limbs of journos” stated as follows-
“Minister of Public Relations Mervyn Silva warned that he will break the limbs of some journalists, who have gone abroad and made various statements against the country, if they dare to set foot in the country.
“I’m the one who chased one of those journalists ‘PoddalaJayantha’ out of this country. I will break the limbs of all these journalists, in public if they dare to set foot in the country” the Minster warned.
Speaking at a demonstration against the resolution against Sri Lanka at the UNHRC held in Kiribathgoda today Silva also said it is the only the President who can remove him from office.
He also said “Even if a Tsunami flow from Sigiriya I’m sure that no Tsunami will flow against me from President Mahinda Rajapaksa” . “Only Mahinda Rajapakshe can sack me, no other big shot can lay their hands on me until that happened I won’t leave Kelaniya. I know the sons of D.A. Rajapaksa from the time they were kids. The King of this country loves me, the King of this country trusts me” he said.
The Minister informed the public present at the meeting that his son, from this day, would be in the hands of the public. “I’m not afraid to die; two drug dealers from Colombo want to chase me away. But I’m not frightened to die, if something happens to my life, my wife and two children will still be there. From this day onwards my son will be in your hands” he said
A news report in “The Island” under the heading “I threw Poddala out of the Country” stated as follows-
Public Relations Minister Mervyn Silva yesterday threatened to break the limbs of those who had campaigned against Sri Lanka at the just concluded United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) sessions in Geneva.
Leading a protest, at Kiribathgoda, against the passage of US-sponsored resolution, the Gampaha District parliamentarian declared that President Mahinda Rajapaksa had confidence in him and he couldn’t be even moved by a tsunami.
Addressing the media covering the demonstration, the minister revealed that he was responsible for forcing Lake House journalist Poddala Jayantha to flee the country.Claiming that the people of Kelaniya were behind him, the MP lashed out at Sunanda Deshapriya, Nimalka Fernando, Poddala Jayantha and Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu for being involved in undermining the country during the Geneva sessions. Calling them traitors, the MP warned that he would break limbs of those traitors in public.
The latest threat was made in the wake of the SLFP launching an internal inquiry into a simmering dispute between the MP and a group of Pradeshiya Sabha members representing the Kelaniya PS. The police are conducting a separate inquiry.
“Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields: War Crimes Unpunished’ alleged that the Rajapaksa government had killed many journalists and media workers, while forcing many to leave the country.
Meanwhile a news story in the “Daily Mirror” stated that UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navaneetham Pillay had warned that there should be no reprisals against Sri Lankan Human rights defenders and had called upon the Government to dissociate itself from such threats of reprisals. Here is the news report-
“The High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem Pillay today warned that there must be no reprisals against Sri Lankan human rights defenders in the aftermath of yesterday’s adoption by the Human Rights Council of a resolution on Sri Lanka.
Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Rupert Colville quoting Miss Pillay said that during this Human Rights Council session, there has been an unprecedented and totally unacceptable level of threats, harassment and intimidation directed at Sri Lankan activists who had travelled to Geneva to engage in the debate, including by members of the 71-member official Sri Lankan government delegation. Intimidation and harassment of Sri Lankan civil society activists have also been reported in other locations around Geneva.
On the other hand, the Sri Lankan ambassador in Geneva received an anonymous threatening letter which is being followed up by the police and UN security.
At the same time in Sri Lanka itself, newspapers, news websites and TV and radio stations have since January been running a continuous campaign of vilification, including naming and in many cases picturing activists, describing them as an “NGO gang” and repeatedly accusing them of treason, mercenary activities and association with terrorism.
Some of these reports have contained barely veiled incitement and threats of retaliation. At least two comments posted by readers of articles of this type have called for burning down of the houses of the civil society activists named in the articles, and at least one such comment called openly for them to be killed.
The High Commissioner has noted that some of the attacks on human rights defenders were carried in Sri Lankan state media and Government websites or were filed by journalists who had been officially accredited to the Human Rights Council session by the Sri Lankan permanent mission. She is calling on the Government to ensure the protection of human rights defenders, to publicly disassociate itself from such statements, and to clearly uphold the right of Sri Lankan citizens to freely engage in international debate of this kind.
The High Commissioner has also noted that Sri Lanka’s own Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission, in its report published in December, made extensive and positive references to the role civil society can play in reconciliation and rehabilitation efforts, and stressed this would require greater tolerance towards differing views within Sri Lankan civil society and the protection of Sri Lankan human rights defenders.”
In a separate development three well known Human Rights Defenders Sunila Abeysekara,Nimalka Fernando and Dr.Paikiyasothy Saravanamuttu issued a joint statement regarding the threats and personal attacks against them. The text of this statement is given below-
“Our Work To Defend Human Rights In Sri Lanka Must And Will Go On”
by Sunila Abeysekara, Nimalka Fernando and Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu
As the three Sri Lankan human rights defenders who have come most under attack by the state media in Sri Lanka in the past week, because of our active involvement with the on-going session of the UN Human rights Council in Geneva, we feel compelled to issue this statement of clarification.
We do not deny that we are critical of the conduct of the government of Sri Lanka, and the institutions and agencies under its control, whenever disregard for the human rights obligations imposed on the government by virtue of its being signatory to almost all international human rights conventions comes to our attention.
As the President of Sri Lanka, and his Special Envoy on Human Rights well know, the three of us have offered our services to this government to ensure human rights accountability in the past. For example, all of us served on the National Advisory Council appointed by Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe, when he held the portfolio for Human Rights.
Nor do we deny that we work with a range of human rights organizations, nationally, regionally and internationally, to draw attention to human rights violations in Sri Lanka as well as to the culture of impunity and the lack of accountability for violations of the past and of the present. This is our right, as human rights defenders, and we have exercised that right for many years, under various governments, in spite of a barrage of attacks and intimidation from various quarters, including state and non-state entities.
It is indeed regrettable that at a time in the history of our country when we have the opportunity to transform our society, to move from a post-war to a post-conflict phase, and to enjoy the support of the international community to rebuild a just, humane and prosperous Sri Lanka in which all its citizens can live together with peace and dignity, the government and its media have seen it necessary to launch into an unprecedented and utterly personalized attack against the three of us.
There is no attempt to challenge us substantively on any point. None of the comments attributed to us, were actually ever made by any one of us; there are many who were present at the side events where we have spoken who can testify to that.
This attack is totally counter-productive in terms of the government’s campaign to resist the Resolution on Sri Lanka, which has been tabled at the Council. In fact, in Geneva today, there is more focus on the attacks and acts of intimidation of Sri Lankan human rights defenders than there is on the negotiations around the Resolution
Those who accuse us of bringing the country into disrepute would do well to examine both their own motives and the consequences of their actions.
Instead of carrying on with advocacy for defeating the Resolution, Sri Lanka’s ambassador to the Council, Ms. Tamara Kunanayagam has had to spend hours of her valuable time talking to delegations, to the President of the Council and to officials of the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights about the campaign of intimidation and attack against Sri Lankan human rights defenders at the Council and in Sri Lanka.
As human rights defenders working to defeat impunity in Sri Lanka and to build a strong system of justice and accountability for human rights violations, whether committed in the past or in the present, we remain committed to our ideals and to our goals.
For us, whether there is a Resolution on Sri Lanka at the UN Human rights Council or not, our work to defend human rights in Sri Lanka must, and will, go on.