HUMAN RIGHTS DAY 2015
“Independent and credible investigations to ensure the Rights of the Victims”
The International Human Rights Day 2015 was celebrated by the Human Rights Office in Kandy on the 12th December 2015 at the Sri Pushpadana Halll Kandy with the theme of “Independent and credible investigations to ensure the Rights of the victims”. The German Ambassador to Sri Lanka Dr. Jurgan Morhard being the chief guest and Rt. Rev. Dr. Cletus Perera the Bishop of Ratnapura and Davide Vignati the first secretary of Swiss Embassy, Rev. Fr. Bala Rajendran the Apostolic Vicar being the guests of Honor. There were more than 450 participants, survivors, Human Rights activists, members of the support group and civil society members including lawyers & professionals.
To inaugurate the day’s events, the oil lamp was lit by the Guests which was followed by Religious leaders who came on to the stage and observed few moments of silence and remembered the slain Human Rights activists and victims, during the religious song that was played and placed flowers before the Religious symbols.
Fr. Nandana Manatunga the Director of The Human Rights office made the welcome speech. He said that this year’s celebration is special as the Human Rights office could proudly say that, we are moving forward towards our goal with landmark judgments delivered of the victims of HRO initiating the process of reforms to establish the Rule of Law.
Fr. Reid Shelton Fernando, the patron of the National Movement for Social Justice initiated by Most Ven. Sobitha Thero introduced the day and said that the Human Rights Day, the day in 1948 the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
"The formal inception of Human Rights Day dates from 1950, after the Assembly passed resolution 423(V) inviting all States and interested organizations to adopt 10 December of each year as Human Rights Day.
Today the general consent of all United Nations Member States, on the basic Human Rights, laid down in the Declaration, makes it even stronger and emphasizes the relevance of Human Rights in our daily lives. Therefore
today as we celebrate the Human Rights day, let us remind ourselves of the inalienable Rights and the need to protect, promote and safeguard the Rights of all citizens".
Activities and highlights of the Human Rights office were screened and the documentary described the process in which the HRO has gathered people in to a movement to campaign to establish the Rule of law making a clear impact in our society.
Mr. Sanjeewa Weerawickrama, the legal counsel of the Asian Human Rights Commission - Hong Kong delivered the key note address on the day’s theme “Independent and credible investigations to ensure the Rights of the Victims”. His speech captured the whole gathering as he went on explaining the process how the Rule of Law system was crippled by former Presidents with constitutional changes according to their whims and fancies to protect their friends from being prosecuted for serious crimes.
The Chief guest Dr. Morhard, the German Ambassador to Sri Lanka in his speech thanked the Human Rights activists for bringing about a change and requested everyone to continue to work towards achieving a total change as still there are Human Rights violations. Further he said it is not only for Justice that we should work, but also to find the Truth.
Bishop Cletus Perera is the chairman of the Catholic National Commission for Interreligious Dialogue and Ecumenism and the Commission for Missionary Activity of Sri Lankan Bishops' Conference, addressing the gathering explained the need know our rights as it is important for the protection of the rights and respect for the rights of others. He further said that SriLankans have to overcome the legacy of our past, and embrace our new democratic dispensation founded on the fundamental principles of freedoms, equality and human dignity
The expression, ‘human rights’ has gained a lot of significance in the modern society in the West as well as in the East. There are similarities and differences between the modern conception of human rights and that existing in our history. The dance and music are expressions of our emotions; hence there were several cultural items staged that beautified the days programme.
The art, in the printed invitation sent out by the HRO was the first place of under 20 inter school Art competition held in 2014 in view of the International Human Rights day 2015, and the artist Afra Nawaz of Hillwood College Kandy described the perception of her Award winning Art.
Testimonial therapy, the survivors testify and the testimony is documented by the counselor and during a formal ceremony the written testimony is handed over to the survivor. This method was found to be effective to certain torture survivors and their family members. During the Human Rights day programme, the ceremonial delivery of testimonies of Anthony Chandra and her daughters were also held. Chandra was detained for 07 years under the PTA and released without charges. The youngest daughter out of the 03 daughters was only 2 ½ years old, when Chandra was arrested. Her mother-in-law took care of the children during those 07 years with untold hardships. Chandra and her daughters were traumatized with the sudden arrest and detention.
Closing the day’s events of 2015 International Human Rights Day, Carols were sung to remind about the greatest event in the history, the Birth of Christ Jesus.
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