Ensure the security of Herman Kumara and Anura Roshantha
Monday, 26 March 2012
We, the undersigned civil society organisations and activists, are deeply disturbed by the threats faced by Mr. Herman Kumara of the National Fisheries Solidarity Movement (NAFSO) and Mr. Aruna Roshantha Fernando of All Ceylon Fisher Folk Federation (ACFFF) and condemn these attempts to stifle democratic rights and silence these leaders.
Herman Kumara was followed from the airport by an unknown group upon his return to Sri Lanka after attending a meeting overseas on 24th February 2012. This group tailed him to his village and made inquiries from neighbours about his whereabouts. Herman Kumara believes that their intention was to abduct him.
We believe that that the current threat to Herman Kumara is a direct consequence of his naming in Parliament by the Minister of Fisheries and Aquatic Resource Development, Dr. Rajitha Senarathne on 21st February 2012, as one of two persons responsible for the protests of the fishing community against the fuel price increase – in which one fishermen in Chilaw was shot dead by the Special Task Force (STF). Despite numerous statements by the protestors themselves that their agitation was spontaneous and self-organised, and not instigated by others, both Herman Kumara and Anura Roshantha have had to go into hiding in fear of their safety because of these unfounded and malicious allegations.
Herman Kumara is the national convenor of a vibrant fisher people’s organisation in Sri Lanka – the National Fisheries Solidarity Movement (NAFSO) – and he has been the General Secretary of the World Federation of Fisher People (WFFP) for several years. He is a leading activist involved in other movements including the People’s Alliance for the Right to Land (PARL). He has worked tirelessly on individual campaigns to protect the rights of fishermen in the Negombo lagoon, whose livelihood was threatened by the introduction of sea-planes, and in opposing moves to appropriate the land of villagers in Kalpitiya for tourist development.
We have worked with Herman Kumara and his organisation for many years and we know the important role they have played in creating people’s awareness and sustaining the struggle against injustice where the socio-economic and democratic rights of people are threatened by the State or other actors. Herman Kumara and NAFSO have also participated in building solidarity between people in the North and East and those in the South through people-to-people dialogues for peace and sustainable development. The despicable threats and the use of the state media to intimidate Herman Kumara and NAFSO aim to undermine all these initiatives.
These threats against Herman Kumara and others are not isolated incidents but rather, just an example of a pattern of events that is taking place in the country to intimidate civil society organisations and human rights defenders involved in protecting and securing the rights of our fellow citizens. As organisations and individuals actively involved in struggles and movements for social justice and democratic rights, we are deeply concerned by these recent incidents targeting individuals, and the broader trends of intimidation and violence.
We would like to appeal to all people, regardless of political opinion, to join in solidarity to condemn this intimidation and to call for basic freedoms of association and expression to be protected so that Herman Kumara, Anura Roshantha, and many others activists and organisations, can function freely.
We appeal to the government of Sri Lanka to take urgent steps to:
Conduct impartial investigations into the threats faced by Herman Kumara and Anura Roshantha;
1. To protect the lives of these activists exercising their lawful and constitutionally protected freedoms;
2. To instruct state security and intelligence agencies to desist from surveillance and intimidation of all activists engaged in non-violent social action;
3. To unequivocally and publicly defend the rights of human rights defenders in accordance with the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.
Endorsed by (Organizations):
Movement for Land and Agricultural Reforms (MONLAR)
Uva farmers’ collective of poison free agriculture (UFCPFA)
Vikalpani National Women’s Federation
People’s Health Movement
Sri Lanka Nature Group
Environment Conservation Trust
Mothers and Daughters of Lanka
IMADR Asia Committee
Sri Lanka human rights defender network
Centre for Environmental Justice.
Savisthri women’s Movement
Women’s Action for Social Justice
National Active Women’s United Collective
Centre for Policy Alternatives
Free Trade Zones & General Services Employees Union
Movement Of Stand-Up
All Lanka Peasants Front
Interfaith Cooperation Forum
International Movement of Catholic Agricultural and Rural Youth
International Federation of Catholic Adult Rural Movements
FIAN Sri Lanka Working Group
Uwa Vellassa Kantha Sanvidhanaya
Southern Fisheries organization, Matara
Christian Alliance for Social Action
People for Human Rights and Equality (PHRE), Melbourne, Australia
Lawyers for Democracy
People’s Alternatives to Climate Change and Crisis in Agriculture
Endorsed by (Individuals):
Rev. Fr. Sarath Iddamalgoda
Fr. Oswald B. Firth, OMI
Rev. Fr. Reid Shelton Fernando
Rev Fr Ashok Stephen OMI
Prof. Kumar David
Prof Amal Kumarage
Dr. Sumathy Sivamohan - Senior Lecturer
Dr. Deepika Udagama—academic
Melani Manel Perera – Journalist
Danesh Karunanayake - academic
Chandraguptha Thenuwara- Artist/ Senior Lecturer
Padma Pushpakanthi- Social Development Activist
K. P. Somalatha- Social Development Activist
Priyanjith Alokabandara – freelance journalist
H.M.P. Sanjeewanie – Researcher
Rohini Hensman (freelance writer and researcher)
Santhush Kumar Pararajasingam
Shamala Kumar, University of Peradeniya
Ainslie Joseph, Convenor of Christian Alliance for Social Action
Shakya Pathmalal Lahiru