The Human Rights Award Ceremony to commemorate the International Human Rights day was held in Kandy with the theme' Embrace diversity and end discrimination " was organized by the Human Rights office on the 13th December 2009 at the Trinity college with Mr. Palitha Fernando the additional solicitor General as the chief guest and Bishop Vianney Fernando as the guest of honor, Mr. Titus Manatunga the vice president of the Bar Association, the SSP Mr Shantha Udapamunuwa.. More than 1500 people participated at this event where Human Rights activists were awarded for their commitment in seeking Justice.
Welcoming the chief guest and the guests of honor the lawyers, the religious dignitaries, Fr Nandana Manatunga, the director of the Human Rights office explained the purpose of the Human Rights award ceremony. He said that the award ceremony is an occasion where the human rights activists are recognized and encouraged to continue their commitment for Justice in a society where Justice delivery system is defective and the Rule of law is collapsing and where the human rights activists are gradually and systematically silenced.
Religious prayers and blessing were invoked by Buddhist monks, Hindu priest, Moulavi and the catholic priest at the beginning of the days celebrations. An art exhibition was also held out side the Trinity College of the winners of the Art competition.
Mr. Palitha Fernando, the additional solicitor general in his address emphasized the Equality of every human person endowed with Rights because of Humanness and every human person has the fundamental Rights guaranteed. He further said that it is unfortunate that so many victims of injustices are deprived of Justice due to the court delay and said that the new Chief Justice Asoka De Silva has sent a circular requesting the High Court judges to expedite criminal cases by trials being held continuously without postponement. He also assured the assistance of the Attorney Generals department in cases of Human Rights violations.
The Bishop of the Central province Bishop Vianney Fernando in his address said that it is most unfortunate that the guardians of the law break the law in broad day light and deprive the people of their fundamental Rights. He gave the example of the recent incident where law enforcing officers tortured a person unto death even when he was begging for mercy. The bishop further said that there cannot be development without the Rule of Law. He thanked the director and the staff of the Human Rights office for their courage in standing for the poor and the deprived in seeking justice.
The main event of the celebration was the awarding of the Human rights activists. The work of those award winners and the citations were screened before each award winner was awarded by Mr. Palitha Fernando and Bishop Vianney Fernando.
The Award Winners were
A special message of the Executive Director of the Asian Human Rights Commission Mr. Basil Fernando on the police reforms was visually presented and the message was circulated also in printed form. “Uttamacharaya" a book was launched in Sinhala and in Tamil describing the heroic work of the 2009 Award winners.
As a mark of respect to the slain human rights activists, Mr. Gerad Perera and Mr. Sugath Nishantha Fernando and also to Anthoni Sawarimuttu who died few months ago, few minutes of silence were observed.
There were also video presentations on the cases that were successfully completed during the year 2009 obtaining Justice, especially of the victims of Torture and rape. Cultural items from few parishes were staged to add flavor to the Days celebration.
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