The Human Rights Office in Kandy organized the Human Rights Day 2018 coinciding with the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the 10th anniversary of the Human Rights Office at the Good Shepherd Convent Kandy on the 09th December 2018 with the theme “In spite of our differences, Let us respect and ensure each other’s Rights”.
During the celebration 02 prominent Human Rights Activists and family members of the Disappeared from Kandy and the winners of schools and Religious Schools Art and Essay competitions were awarded. Hon. Saliya Pieris, President's Counsel the Chairman of the Office on Missing Persons (OMP) of Sri Lanka was the chief guest and Rt. Rev. Dr. Bishop Vianney Fernando Bishop of the Central Province was the Guest of Honour.
The occasion was graced with the participation of more than 500 people including religious leaders, victims, human rights defenders, award winners and well-wishers.
The families of the Disappeared from Kandy were awarded for their long journey with the Human Rights Office in seeking Truth & Justice and for their commitment to be in solidarity with all families of the disappeared in the country and campaign against disappearances - a crime against Humanity -.
Rev. Sr. Mabel Rodrigo was awarded for upholding Christian values, for her commitment and dedicated services as a Trauma Counselor for the victims of Torture, Rape and all victims of Human Rights violations, in restoring their Dignity and for her creative approach of healing memories of the Families of the Disappeared.
Mr. Sampath Samarakoon was awarded for his commitment in upholding democracy and for his untiring work with the voiceless people in Sri Lanka in defending and campaigning for their rights as a Journalist and a Human Rights Activist.
The winners of Art & Essay competitions who will be the future in creating a culture of Human Rights in our country were award too.
Introducing the day and welcoming the guests, Fr. Nandana Manatunga, the director of the Human Rights Office said that it was an honor to have Hon. Saliya Pieris as the chief guest who always maintained his credibility as a committed human rights lawyer. Fr. Nandana thanked all those who supported various initiatives of the Human Rights Office during the past ten years and appreciated the encouragement given by the Bishop. He also thanked the lawyers, the survivors, the members of the support group and the Partners. Fr. Nandana said that the “Ten year journey” was challenging with threats, in establishing the Rule of Law with the campaign to reform the police and the judiciary, however he said the effort was rewarding as the HRO made a headway in creating a culture of human rights.
Hon. Saliya Pieris, the chief guest addressing the gathering said that he was honored by the invitation to participate at the Human Rights Award Ceremony organized by the Human Rights Office in Kandy and congratulated the Award Winners of 2018 award ceremony. He recalled the dark days when thousands of youth were indiscriminately killed and made to disappear during the JVP insurrection and congratulated the parents and family members of the disappeared for their consistent campaign in seeking Justice & Truth and thanked the Human Rights Office for journeying with them. He further said that as a country we have to acknowledge the disappearance that happened both ion the north & south and help the families of the disappeared to know the truth and assure that it may not happen again. Finally he praised the judiciary for upholding the independence of the judiciary amidst of crisis.
Addressing the gathering, Bishop Vianney Fernando the Bishop of the Central Province & the chairman of the National Commission for Justice Peace, thanked the Director of the Human Rights Office, Fr. Nandana and his staff for their untiring efforts and commitment in journeying with the victims of human rights violations in seeking Justice during the past ten years. Bishop further said that all of us are called as not only as followers of Christ but also as citizens of this country to work for Justice & Peace and uphold democracy in the country at this crucial moment when democracy is at stake.
The award winners of the 2018 Human Rights Award ceremony also made their comments appreciating the Human Rights Office for its initiatives in acknowledging and appreciating the commitment of the human rights defenders and thanked all those who supported them.
The award ceremony was made colourful with dances and cultural items. The birth of Christ, the Prince of Peace was reminded with a dance staged by the students of the Nuwara Eliya Good Shepherd Convent closing down the curtain of the 2018 Human Rights Award ceremony.