5 August 2014, Colombo, Sri Lanka: The Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) vehemently condemns the violent attack by a group of Buddhist monks and supporters on a discussion held in Colombo with the families of the disappeared on 4th August 2014. The discussion, at which, families had gathered to share reflections on the search for their disappeared loved ones, was held on private premises with the support of civil society organisations. It comes in the wake of public sittings held by the Presidential Commission of Inquiry investigating and inquiring into Missing Persons and the officially stated commitment of the government to address the issue of disappearances. This attack is also a chilling reminder that upholding fundamental rights and freedoms in post war Sri Lanka is a seriously hazardous exercise.
In addition to the shrinking space for reflection on the issue of disappearances, CPA is extremely concerned about the total impunity enjoyed by certain religious actors and their supporters. In particular, the lack of action against those who incite violence and espouse hate speech is deeply deplorable and seriously troubling, especially in a context where the repeated inability and/or unwillingness to arrest and prosecute perpetrators is perceived by many as state support and/or sponsorship for such attacks. Furthermore, despite a spate of recent attacks against religious minorities, conflict affected communities and civil society no public information is available regarding any arrests of perpetrators. This is, despite video footage, publicly available, identifying key religious actors involved in what we firmly believe amounts to hate speech and violence.
This most recent attack is a clear violation of the Constitutional and legal framework in Sri Lanka and must be speedily and effectively dealt with. We therefore call upon the Inspector General of Police to take immediate action against perpetrators in accordance with the Penal Code and Police Ordinance in Sri Lanka. We also urge the Government of Sri Lanka to meet its international and national obligations by respecting the fundamental freedoms of expression and assembly and by upholding the rule of law.