The Human Rights Office in Kandy held the International Human Rights Day 2021 at the Good Shepherd Convent Kandy on the 08th January 2022 with the theme “Ensure the Prisoners their Dignity and Rights to Human Conditions". The 2021 Human Rights day event scheduled for the 11th December 2021 was postponed as the Kandy Police ban the event with a court order citing the Section 106 (1) of the Code of Criminal Procedure Act. While the event was held at the Kandy Convent hall, a few protestors were seen outside the convent premises claiming that the event was “sympathizing with terrorists".
During the celebration prominent Human Rights Activists late Sr. Alexander Molligoda and the Committee for Protecting the Rights of Prisoners (CPRP), led by Attorney-At-Law (AAL) Senaka Perera were awarded for their committed service to the prisoners. On behalf of Sr. Alexander, the provincial of the CSJM Rev. Sr. Ajitha Fernando and Mr. Cecil Molligoda the brother of Sr. Alexander received the award from the chief guest Ms. Dinushika Dissanayake.
Late Sr. Alexander Molligoda was a frequent visitor to the Galle Prison as well as Boossa high security detention center and she went out of her way to assist the prisoners, specially by finding funds to pay the fines of prisoners and bail for the poor prisoner families who were unable to secure the money. She also made it a point to give gifts to all the prisoners for Christmas irrespective of their religion. She made no Judgement on prisoners when assisting prisoners and there is a huge vacuum with her untimely demise that is deeply felt even today.
Mr. Senaka Perera AAL and his team of the “Committee for Protecting Rights of the Prisoners” c ame into the lime light in 2012 with the Welikada Prison massacre and continued their commitment to uphold the Fundamental Rights of the prisoners. Along with the families of the prisoners they campaigned for the Basic - minimum standard in prisons and voiced on behalf of the prisoners during the Covid 19 pandemic for their safety & health. The team also use legal mechanisms to ensure the Rights of the prisoners and have taken up certain important issues to the UN forums.
Ms. Dinushika Dissanayake, AAL the Deputy South Asia Director, Research at Amnesty International the chief guest addressing the gathering said “In the entire world, prisoners are downtrodden and silenced. Amnesty International has named a number of ‘Prisoners of Conscience’ – including Hejaaz Hizbullah, who was arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act No. 28 of 1979 in 2020. However, there are also many prisoners who only often have their family and lawyers speaking up for them. An extremely minimum number of people speak up for prisoners. In Sri Lanka, prisons endure a capacity of 190%, of which 60% are remand prisoners,” Amnesty International South Asia Deputy Director Dinushika Dissanayake said at the event.
troducing the day and welcoming the guests, Fr. Nandana Manatunga, the director of the Human Rights Office said that it was an honor to have Dinushika Dissanayake as the chief guest who always had a special interest in ensuring the Rights of the Prisoners as a committed human rights lawyer. Fr. Nandana thanked all those who supported to have this event in spite of several challenges due to misinterpretations given by certain extreme groups.
Fr. Nandana explained the work that HRO does for the families of the prisoners and also paused the question that if a daughter of a prisoner excels in education or sports and if she is to be awarded will the Police ban the event ? As long as the families of the prisoners are not proven guilty of any offence, they should have all the Rights and privileges as any other person in the society. Further, he said in the prison group of families who work for Justice and Fare trial, there are Sinhala members as well as Tamil members and they were to be appreciate for the commitment in seeking Justice for nearly 20 years. Most of these prisoners who were accused of crimes were either were with fabricated charges or detained due to the miscarriage of Justice as many were released without charges after being in remand prison for 08-10 years
The event was attended by Bishop Kumara Illangasinghe, the former Anglican Bishop of Kurunegala, Ven. Nawala Wimalasara Thero, the National Director of Commission for Prisons, Mrs. Visaka Dharmadasa the founder and chair of Association of War Affected Women and Parents of Servicemen Missing in Action, the Principal & the Superior of Good Shepherd Convent Kandy, former Human Rights Award Winners, Priests, Religious, Human Rights activists, survivors who still fight for Justice, families of the disappeared and the prisoners and the members of the support group.
oThe 2021 Human rights day event was made meaningful with video presentations on the efforts made by HRO to ensure the inherent dignity of prisoners and their value as Human Beings also a story of a victim of miscarriage of Justice. With cultural items, Human Rights day’s event was made colourful
Human Rights Office Kandy, Torture in Sri Lanka, Disappearances in Sri Lanka, Healing and Counseling
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