Sri Lanka: Six months since murder of Sunday Leader editor

International campaign needed to end attacks on media and opposition

Lasantha Wickrematunge

On July 8, the Sri Lankan Journalists’ Organisation is holding a commemoration in Colombo to mark six months since the brutal murder of Sunday Leader editor, Lasantha Wickrematunge. None has been brought before the courts in connection with this killing or with the destruction, a few days before, of an independent TV Station.

Instead of pursuing the perpetrators of this thuggery, the president of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapakse, has adopted further dictatorial measures to silence all criticism of himself and his crony government. Last week he used his personal powers to revive the infamous Press Council – a body made up of unelected and unqualified people, appointed by the president himself, and with powers to fine or imprison anyone whose comments are deemed a threat to the government.

Last week, even a popular astrologer was imprisoned for three months for ‘predicting’ the end of the president’s term of office (supposedly in September) and the coming to power of a coalition!

The United Socialist Party (CWI in Sri Lanka) and the Civil Monitoring Committee fully support the journalists’ initiative this Wednesday in the fight for media freedom. They are calling for an avalanche of protests on the same day to reach embassies and consulates world-wide and the Sri Lankan president’s office directly.

The dictatorial methods of Mahinda Rajapakse must be condemned and total media and political freedom in the country demanded as a right.

The ‘winning’ of the war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam does not give the government a free hand to crush the rights of the Tamil people of the north of the island. The detention camps must be disbanded and the right to organise and vote freely in elections, without verbal or physical intimidation, must be established. The government must not be allowed to continue with its campaign of intimidation of those who speak out against the government, trampling on the basic democratic right of freedom of expression and opposition.

Please express your anger at the situation in Sri Lanka by sending a protest message to your local Sri Lankan embassy or consulate and phoning them if possible.

You should also send your protests to the Government in Sri Lanka at the e-mail addresses below with copies to: unitedsocialists@gmail.com and cwi@worldsoc.co.uk

President of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapakse

  • priu@presidentsoffice.lk and gosl@presidentsl.org

Secretary of Defence, Public Security, Law and Order, Gotabhaya Rajapakse

  • gotabaya@defence.lk

Protest message sent by Committee for a Workers’ International

We, of the Committee for a Workers’ International, with parties and members in 40 countries around the world, deplore the inaction of the Sri Lankan government over mounting complaints about the denial of basic civil and democratic rights in the country. It is six months since the esteemed editor, Lasantha Wckeramatunge, was murdered in broad daylight and no-one has been apprehended. In fact there have been further attacks on journalists and others who do not say what the government wants to hear, including even the popular astrologer, Chandrasiri Bandara.

Instead, you and your government have revived the Press Council, to assist you in persecuting those who speak out against you. The powers that this unelected and unqualified body has to fine and imprison anyone it wants to are akin to methods used under all dictatorships. The camps you have maintained in the north, with 300,000 Tamil people imprisoned behind barbed wire, resemble the concentration camps of the Nazis. Anyone who wants to investigate conditions or write about them is in danger of even losing their freedom, if not their life.

We demand freedom of speech and of the media and the right of all to speak the truth as they see it.

We demand the abolition of the extra-judicial ‘Court’ – the Press Council, and the liberation from the camps of all Tamil people held there.

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