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Urgent attention required against threats faced by two civil society activists


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  • Threats made against Prof. Chadraguptha Thenuwara and Gamini Viyangoda

We, the undersigned concerned about democracy, justice and rule of law in Sri Lanka, are alarmed at the threats made against two senior civil society activists for filing an application in the Court of Appeal (CA) challenging the validity of the dual citisenship declaration belonging to Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Presidential aspirant and former Secretary, Ministry of Defence. 

We understand that Prof. Chadraguptha Thenuwara and Gamini Viyangoda filed the case following submissions made by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) to the Magistrates Court on this issue highlighting irregularities in the issuing of the declaration. The case was heard before a divisional bench headed by the CA President Justice Yasantha Kodagoda and was dismissed on 4 October. The Petitioners received threatening messages soon after the case was filed in the CA on 27 September and these messages have continued following the dismissal of the case. 

We note that Gotabaya Rajapaksa submitted nomination papers on 7 October to contest the forthcoming Presidential elections as the candidate of the Sri Lanka Peoples Party (SLPP). 

We are especially troubled by a series of threatening events and messages which include threats to person when in public places, telephone messages, and hate speech on social media platforms, mainly on Facebook, levelled against Prof. Thenuwara and Viyangoda. Some of the threats posted on Facebook immediately following the dismissal of the case were collated by the BBC’s Sinhala News page on 6 October titled ‘White Van threats to Thenuwara and Viyangoda on social media’ (https://www.bbc.com/sinhala/world49945479). 

Among them were a number referring to disappearance by white van such as “get ready for a white van ride”, “these are the types of blackguards who must be given trips in white vans”, “who knows where they live?”, “They don’t deserve a quick funeral, their arms and legs should be broken and they should be made to suffer…” and so on. 

A web post under IRAJ productions dated 3 October warned, “No one who touched the Rajapaksas fared well” and went on to threaten, “After the Presidential Election we will begin our work once we have sent the two pariahs who filed the case against Gotabaya to the other world. Be prepared. Victory to the motherland!!!”. In response Madhumadhawa Aravinda linked the threat to the disappearance of Pradeep Eknaligoda saying, “There is another name like Viyangoda. That is known as Eknaligoda. We wish them well.”

Prof. Thenuwara and Viyangoda first made a complaint to the CID and subsequently filed the case in the CA as citizens concerned with the integrity of the forthcoming elections, and to ensure that any alleged fraud or irregularity is independently investigated and action taken by the relevant authorities. This is a fundamental right of every citizen and should be exercised without fear of threat or intimidation. 

These threats are meant to strike fear into the hearts of those who work for rights and justice in Sri Lanka. Individuals working on these issues will make every effort to resist any such climate of intimidation and fear. We are also concerned that these threats are a reminder of Sri Lanka’s recent past when activists, media and lawyers came under attack for challenging the previous regime of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Investigations into the killing of Lasantha Wickrematunge, disappearance of Prageeth Ekneligoda and assault against Keith Noyahr are some of the cases where journalists were targeted during this period with investigations still pending. 

We note that Prof. Thenuwara and Viyangoda made a complaint to the CID regarding these threats on 8 October and asked for investigation and protection. In a context where Prof. Thenuwara and Viyangoda are facing continued intimidation, we urge the authorities to take immediate steps to investigate these threats and to provide them with security. 

We also request the supporters of Gotabaya Rajapaksa to respect the rights of all citizens to exercise their fundamental rights and to desist from making threatening remarks or engaging in any form of intimidation. As a candidate in the forthcoming elections, it is paramount Rajapaksa as well as the SLPP call on their supporters to respect the right to dissent and act responsibly during elections and thereafter. 

Finally, we call on the Elections Commission to take all measures to prevent hate speech and violence in the lead up to and during elections and to secure democratic space required for the conducting of free and fair elections in Sri Lanka. 

14 October 2019 

Signed by: 

1. A. Haniffa 

2. A.F.M. Ikram 

3. Aaranya Rajasingham 

4. Ajith Dharmakeerthi 

5. Ajith Jinadasa 

6. Ajith Rajapaksa 

7. Ameena Hussein

8. Andrew Samuel 

9. Anithra Varia

10. Annemari de Silva 

11. Annie Kurian 

12. Anushaya Collure 

13. Anushya Coomaraswamy 

14. Ashoka Handagama 

15. B. Gowthaman 

16. Bandara Menike 

17. Bennett Rathnayake 

18. Bhavani Fonseka 

19. Binendri Perera 

20. Bishop Duleep de Chickera 

21. Brito Fernando 

22. Chamila Thushari 

23. Chandana Keerthi Bandara

24. Chandra Jayaratne 

25. Chandra Wedagedara Jayaratne 

26. Chandula Kumbukage 

27. Chulani Kodikara 

28. Cyril Wedagedara 

29. Danesh Casie Chetty 

30. Deanne Uyangoda 

31. Deekshya Illangasinghe 

32. Dharmasiri Lankapeli 

33. Dr. Asanga Welikala 

34. Dr. Cheran Rudhramoorthy 

35. Dr. Devanesan Nesiah 

36. Dr. Farzana Haniffa 

37. Dr. Harini Amarasuriya 

38. Dr. Harshana Rambukwella 

39. Dr. Jayantha Dhanapala 

40. Dr. Mahim Mendis 

41. Dr. Nimalka Fernando

42. Dr. Nirmal Ranjith Dewasiri 

43. Dr. P. Saravanamuttu 

44. Dr. Prabha Manuratne 

45. Dr. Radhika Coomaraswamy 

46. Dr. Ranjini Obeyesekere 

47. Dr. Sakuntala Kadirgamar 

48. Dr. Shamala Kumar 

49. Dr. Sujatha Gamage 

50. Dr. Udan Fernando 

51. Dr. Vasuki Nesiah 

52. Dumindu Madhushan 

53. Ephraim Shadrach 

54. Ermiza Tegal 

55. F. Zackariya 

56. Fr. V. Yogeswaran 

57. Gaya Nagahawatta 

58. Geetha de Chickera 

59. Gnanasiri Koththigoda 

60. Harsha Bulathsinghala 

61. Harsha Gunasena 

62. Heelen de Alwis 

63. Hejaaz Hizbullah

64. Herman Kumara 

65. Hilmy Ahamed 

66. Indika Udugampola 

67. Inshira Faliq 

68. Iromi Perera 

69. Javid Yusuf 

70. Jay Gunewardena 

71. Jayanthi Kuru-Utumpala 

72. Jayatilaka Kammallaweera

73. Jeanne Samuel 

74. K.S.Ratnavale

75. K.W. Janaranjana 

76. Kamala Vasuki 

77. Kevin Murray 

78. Kumudini Samuel 

79. Kusal Perera 

80. Lakshman Hewawitharana 

81. Lal Wijenayake

82. Lasantha Garusinghe

83. Lionel Bopage 

84. Lionel Guruge 

85. M. L. Usuf

86. M.D. Mahindapa 

87. M.K.D.S. Nilasini 

88. Maithreyi Rajasingam 

89. Manel Fonseka 

90. Mario Gomez 

91. Marisa de Silva 

92. Minoli de Soysa 

93. Nadie Kammallaweera 

94. Nadeshan Suresh 

95. Natasha Ginwala 

96. Nuwan Thenuwara 

97. P. Muthulingam 

98. Padmini Weerasooriya 

99. Philip Dissanayake 

100. Prabodha Rathnayaka 

101. Prema Gamage 

102. Priyanthi Fernando 

103. Priyath Liyanage 

104. Prof. Arjuna Parakrama 

105. Prof. Camena Guneratne 

106. Prof. Daya Somasundaram 

107. Prof. Desmond Mallikarachchi 

108. Prof. Gameela Samarasinghe 

109. Prof. Gananath Obeysekere 

110. Prof. Jayantha Seneviratne 

111. Prof. Kumar David 

112. Prof. Maithree Wickramasinghe 

113. Prof. Nilanthi de Silva 

114. Prof. Priyan Dias 

115. Prof. Rohan Fernando 

116. Prof. Savitri Goonesekere 

117. Prof. Sitralega Maunaguru 

118. Prof. Vijaya Kumar 

119. Rajan Hoole 

120. Ranjith Perera 

121. Rev. Dr. Jayasiri Peiris 

122. Rosanna Flamer-Caldera 

123. Roshan Quintus 

124. Ruki Fernando 

125. S. C. C. Elankovan 

126. S.P. Pushpakanthan 

127. Sachini Perera 

128. Sanjana Hattotuwa 

129. Sanjayan Rajasingham 

130. Sarah Arumugam 

131. Sarala Emmanuel 

132. Sarath de Alwis 

133. Senel Wanniarachchi 

134. Shafinaz Hassandeen 

135. Shalomi Daniel 

136. Shanika Perera 

137. Sherine Xavier 

138. Sherman de Rose 

139. Shreen Abdul Saroor 

140. Silma Ahamed 

141. Subha Wijesiriwardena 

142. Sugath Amarasekera 

143. Sumathipala Kariyawasam 

144. Sumika Perera 

145. Sumith Abeykoon 

146. Sunela Jayewardene 

147. Sunethra Rajakarunanayake 

148. Sunil Perera 

149. Suriya Wickremasinghe 

150. Tanuja Thurairajah 

151. Tassie Seneviratne 

152. Tharanga de Silva 

153. Thilak Kariyawasam 

154. Thiyagaraja Waradas 

155. Tisaranee Gunasekara 

156. Tissa Jayatilaka 

157. Titus Fernando 

158. Tracy Holsinger Tennekoon 

159. Uween Jayasinha

160. Vanamali Kaushalya Galappatti 

161. Victor Ivan 

162. Visaka Dharmadasa 

163. Vishnu Vasu 

164. W. Jayasiri 

165. Wasantha A Liyanage 

Organisations: 

1. Association of War Affected Women 

2. Centre for Human Rights and Development 

3. Centre for Policy Alternatives 

4. Centre for Social Concerns 

5. Dabindu Collective 

6. Equal Ground 

7. Families of the Disappeared 

8. International Centre for Ethnic Studies 

9. Mothers and Daughters of Lanka 

10. Muslim Women’s Research and Action Front 

11. National Peace Council 

12. Parents of Servicemen Missing in Action 

13. Right to Life Human Rights Center 

14. Rights Now – Collective for Democracy 

15. Sri Lanka Committee Against Torture

16. Sri Lanka Nature Group 

17. Uva Shakthi Foundation 

18. Women Development Centre, Badulla 

19. Women’s Political Academy 

20. Women’s Resource Center 

21. Young Asia Television 


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