Tuesday, 07 May 2019 06:47

Civil Society Moves to Counter Crisis

Over 45 CSO leaders and religious leaders met at NPC to discuss what steps are to be taken as a combined group to address the current situation in the country. NPC will follow up and update the group regularly.

As a first step it was decided to set up five committees for the following actions:

1. Assistance to Afghan and Pakistani refugees evicted from their shelters
    Find shelter and provide support for the groups
2. Messages of care and communication
    Get advertising space for messages of care and collect voice cuts for social media to counter hate and tension
3. Monitoring excesses in carrying out Emergency Regulations
    Monitor, record and report on excesses. Any persons with information regarding excesses can report to the group
4. Mitigating tension on the ground
    Coordinate with inter religious groups on the ground to actively engage with police and Community Policing Units to ease tension and educate the public
5. Meeting with political leadership and key persons including religious leaders
    Meet the Parliamentary Committee on Ethnic Harmony, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith and relevant ministers

The following statement was drafted and circulated to the press:

Your Excellencies:

e, the undersigned women and men, are members of civil society and are drawn from all religious and ethnic communities. Our common goal has been to advance the political, social and economic and cultural rights of the people by promoting peace, harmony and social justice for all. We have engaged constructively with all governments in the past and will continue do so in this instance. We are appalled by the carnage in Sri Lanka. Our sympathies are with the victims and their families and with our beloved country. We urge the government to expeditiously establish the truth and find the perpetrators and their allies, within the framework of human rights standards.

We draw the government’s attention to the urgent need to contain the developing situation of vigilante justice and mob attacks particularly on the broader Muslim community. We urge the government to establish mechanisms to address these situations with appropriate public messaging and to instruct law enforcement authorities to act swiftly to demonstrate that such acts will not be tolerated. We recognize the need for emergency laws to respond to this situation and rightly so. Yet, we note with deep regret that the emergency regulations published on 22nd April 2019 are overly broad. It is the responsibility of the government to take measures to ensure that misuse/abuse of these extremely broad powers are anticipated and addressed.

There have already been reports of ill treatment during searches and there is an urgent need for law enforcement and security personnel to be informed that they must act professionally and with due care. Excesses experienced during times like this are likely to fuel insecurity nurture hate, and even lead to more violence.

There is a communication vacuum and it is the government’s responsibility to provide accurate and timely information to the public. False rumours and misinformation cannot be stopped by legislation – they can only be countered by facts and credible and accurate information. The government must speak with one voice on this matter. We urge that the President and Prime Minister put aside their personal and political differences and collaborate whole-heartedly and without reservation to bring this situation under control. The high cost of this political in fighting was most clearly revealed in failures to share vital intelligence. We cannot afford a second breach.

We urge all Members of Parliament to put aside their political differences and act responsibly to support the long-term national interest. We request a joint meeting with the President and Prime Minister to discuss this situation. We, as civil society offer our assistance through our wide networks of community-based organisations. They are currently engaged in advocating for calm, for peace, and national unity. These networks can share information and be source of feedback about consequential community issues that may arise. If the government develops the capacity to respond swiftly and decisively to such issues it would certainly strengthen the efforts of the authorities.

Geoffrey Alagaratnam - President's Counsel
Dr Vinya Ariyaratne - Sarvodaya
K.N.Deen - All Ceylon YMMA Conference
Visaka Dharmadasa - Association of War Affected Women (AWAW)
Fr Rohan Dominic - Claretian Missionaries (CMF)
Mangala Fernando - Women's Political Academy (WPA)
Fr Oswald Firth - OMI Peoples Association for Peace and Development (PAPD)
Manjula Gajanayake - Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV)
Saman Hamangoda - Partners in Alternative Training (PALTRA)
Rohana Hettiarachchi - People’s Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL)
Jezima Ismail - Muslim Women’s Research and Action Forum (MWRAF)
Sakunthala Kadirgamar - Law and Society Trust (LST)
Sepali Kottegoda - Women and Media Collective
Sri Lanka Women's NGO Forum
Viola Perera - Action Network For Migrant Workers (ACTFORM)
Jehan Perera - National Peace Council (NPC)
Fr Srian Ranasinghe - OMI Director Oblate Missions
Prabodha Rathnayaka - Rights Now (Collective for Democracy)
Kumudini Samuel - Women and Media Collective (WMD)
Christobel Saverimuttu - Sri Lanka Council of Religions for Peace (SLCRP)
Fr. Rohan Silva - OMI Centre for Society and Religion (CSR)
Padmini Weerasuriya - Mothers and Daughters of Lanka
Dr Joe William - Centre for Communication Training (CCT)
Mohamed Adamaly - Attorney-at-Law
Sanchia Brown - Women and Media Collective
Shashika De Silva
Minoli de Soysa
Sr Nichola Emmanuel
Ramesh Fernando
Adrian Ferdinands
Lasantha Garusinghe - Attorney-at-Law
Amar Gunatilleke
Velayudan Jayachithra - Women and Media Collective
Diana Joseph
Nishantha Kumara
Prof M S M Mookiah - National Peace Council
Safi Nayaj
Shantha D. Pathirana
Shivantha Ratnayake - Centre for Communication Training
Raja Senanayake - National Peace Council
Vijayanathan Thusandra
Nagaratnam Vijayakanthan - National Peace Council
Saman Seneviratne
Chithrupa Vidhanapathirana
Sumadhu Weerawarne
Thiyagaraja Waradas - University of Colombo
Subha Wijesiriwardena - Women and Media Collective