The International day in support of the Torture survivors was held at the Pushpadana hall Kandy SriLanka on the 26th Sunday June 2011, at 2.00 p.m. with 350 participants, torture survivors and their family members, the families of the disappeared, the ex-prisoners and their families, the winners of the 2010 essay and poster competitions, the members of the support groups, the religious, the priests and the well-wishers.
The days programme commenced with religious observations followed by the lighting of the traditional oil lamp. The chief guests were the Torture survivors, and the guests of honor were the Vicar General of the Kandy diocese Fr. Milroy Fonseka, Mrs. Nandani Rajanayaka, the chief jailor of the prisons, Mr. Rukshan Fernando, Frs, Christy Paul, Ivan Jayasundara, and Joseph Miranda.
The purpose of the gathering was explained by Fr. Nandana Manatunga, the director of the Human Rights office, which was followed by the keynote address by Mr. Rukshan Fernando of the LST with a power point presentation and a discussion on the issue of Torture in Sri Lanka and the prevention.
The awards were then presented to the students of different schools and Sunday schools " Daham Pasalas" from the Central province, the winners of the 2010 Human Rights poster and essay competitions. It was noted that the majority of the winners from 120 schools, that took part in the competitions were from remote schools in the province. Few cultural items were presented by the students adding flavor to day’s programme.
In celebrating the International Human Rights day 2010, the Human Rights office organized a programme with the theme "Human Rights defenders who act to end discrimination" with 04 victims of Rape and Torture namely, Jesudasan Rita, Lalith Rajapakse, Chamila Bandara and Anton Perera along with the Human Rights defenders sharing their views.
The programme was held at St Mary's Church Parish hall Ampitiya Kandy Sri-Lanka. The first session in the morning was an inter-religious prayer service organized by the parents and the family members of the disappeared on behalf of the disappeared the Human Rights defenders, with the participation of Buddhist monks and catholic priests. The morning session was concluded with an almsgiving to Buddhist monks and priests of other religions.
Chamila Bandara explained the process he went through since 2003 in seeking Justice and his experience of discrimination along with his family members. He said that he was discriminated not only by his relatives, friends but also by the villagers. He profusely thanked the Human Rights defenders who provided protection, security and those who accompanied him to the court. Chamila recalled his visit to the U.N in 2004 and said that it was a great opportunity to have testified before the committee. Due to the discriminative justice system his perpetrators were freed but however he said that he is happy that they were out of their service as police officers for a very long time and he said it was a well deserve punishment.
Jesudasan Rita, an outstanding survivor since 2001 still in search of Justice expressed her gratitude to all those who assisted her during the last 10 years in spite of discriminative acts of the law enforcing agencies and the judiciary. She said she even cannot remember in how many places she was sheltered for protection and security during the past ten years. She said although she is married and settled in life due to the undue delay in adjudication process her mind is not at rest. Further she said she cannot exactly remember details of the incident after 10 years. Rita is due to give evidence at Nuwar-Eliya high court on the 20th April 2011.She remembered with gratitude her late grand father Savarimuttu Anthonimuttu who was a great Human Rights defender until his demise last year. Rita said that she is confident that her perpetrators would be punished.
Lalth Rajapakse expressed his gratitude to all the Hu,an Rights defenders who assisted him since 2002 to free himself of all the charges brought against him. He said that he is now settled in Kandy, married to Sandamali, a rape victim and has a son. Lalith spoke of his late grand father who defended him as a dignified human person. He recalled the individuals who came to his rescue including Mr. Basil Fernando of AHRC. Lalith noted that his perpetrator, police officer also went through a very difficult period and he even worked as a security guard to earn his living and pay the lawyers.
Anton Perera, a former police officer explained the trauma that he went through due to the discriminative acts performed by his own police officers. He spoke of the social stigma that was attached to his arrest and consequently to his whole family. The importance of the Human Rights defenders and their role in the society was enumerated by him and extended his gratitude to the trauma counselors and the Human Rights defenders.
The Support Group
The Human Rights defenders who gathered at this ceremony expressed their joy of being part of the lives of the 49 survivors. Ms. Chammika said that the survivors are part of our family and therefore we do not just sympathies but feel one with them.
Fr Ivan Jayasundara expressed his joy to see the survivors and he said that he could remember everyone one of them when they initially came to us and he said the transformation they have undergone is commendable. Many of the Human Rights Defenders said it was a new experience to have accompanied the survivors to the court.
The Human Rights Defenders made a further commitment to protect, promote and safe-guard the Rights of the survivors and end discrimination. The survivors and the Human Rights defenders commended the work done by the Human Rights office in accompanying survivors of rape and Torture since 2001.
Then all participants took time to greet, encourage each family member of the two survivor groups for their unfailing courage and for continuing the struggle to get justice.
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.
Human Rights Office Kandy, Torture in Sri Lanka, Disappearances in Sri Lanka, Healing and Counseling
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