A special programme to commemorate the “International Day in support of the Torture survivors” was organized by the Human Rights Office Kandy on the 23rd June 2013 at Nawalapitiya along with a Legal clinic. The Human Rights Office highlighted the court Judgment HC 309/2007 the rape, torture & murder of S. Umadevi of Imbulpitiya Nawalapitiya. The incident that took place on the 12th of September 2001 finally received Justice by the High Court of Kandy Sri Lanka in September 2012 sentencing 02 accused for 20 years of imprisonment for the rape and death sentence for the murder.
Those who gathered at the church premises on the 23rd June 2013, to commemorate the "International day in support of the Torture survivors" were reminded about the public protest that was held in September 2001 by the Religious leaders & the members of the civil society calling for investigations into the abduction, Torture, rape and murder of S. Umadevi, a young student from Nawalapitiya. The protest march that started off from the Hindu Kovil, proceeded to the premises of the Catholic church where a public gathering was held in 2001 with Religious leaders of all faiths addressing the gathering.
S. Umadevi was abducted while she was returning from typing classes and she was just 23 years of age at the time of the incident. The campaign for justice by the people of Nawalapitiya which was supported by the Human Rights Office that also initiated a post card campaign, appreciated the efforts by all religious leaders and the members of the civil society in breaking the silence in the face of such gruesome incidents. The police officers who were delaying the investigations into the abduction, Torture, rape & murder of Umadevi, finally were forced to initiate investigations that resulted in the arrest of 07 suspects.
The Human Rights office stood by the victim’s family during the past 11 years at each court sitting retaining a lawyer in the interest of the aggrieved party and monitoring the court procedure by the staff of the HRO, while the organizations and the civil society members, who came forward initially to support the victim's family, fell by the way side as the legal process took its own time, almost 11 years to finally complete it.
On the 23rd June 2013, the children, youth and the adults were taken separately in groups and made aware of the need to voice against Torture, rape, murder & all human rights violations and follow the adjudication process until justice is delivered. This was followed by a Legal clinic. Leaflets, in Sinhala & Tamil, highlighting the judgment of the abduction, Torture, rape & murder of S. Umadevi were distributed to people who gathered at the church premises and also in streets of Nawalapitiya. The Lawyers, members of the support group, the director and the staff of the Human Rights office organized the days programme.
“Prevention of Child Abuse, Rape & Torture”
December 02nd was an indelible day for the Human rights Office Kandy and the people of Rattota. It was also a great day especially to the staff and the students of Tamil Maha Vidyalaya in Rattota for one of her students after receiving a historical judgment for her rape case, the triumph was celebrated at Rattota Pradeshiya Sabha hall in commemorating the International Human Rights Day 2012.
Around 10.00 am a group of more than 350 participants The principal, students of Tamil Maha Vidyalaya in Rattota, the Pradeshiya Sabha members, the parents and the civil society leaders, police officers, with the Human Rights office director Rev. Fr. Nandana Manatunga, the staff, the support group and the well wishers joined a protest march from Hindu College to the Pradeshiya Sabha. They carried posters “Protect your Children” “Fight against Child abuse” giving awareness to the people around the cause of the public rally.
After the lighting of the traditional oil lamp the director of the Human Rights Office gave an insight to the meaning and the cause of the public rally. He stated that among several cases reported from this particular school on rape and child abuse, this particular case serves as a model for all the victims. The inaction of the police of Rattota was the main reason for the denial of justice for the victims, he said. Fr Nandana accused the police for corruption and for their lethargic attitude when such cases were reported from the same school in Rattota.
It was due to the timely interventions that this rape case saw the light of the day and Fr. Nandana offered his gratitude to the parents of the victims and all those assisted them to seek Justice. He further said that while preventing child abuse and cases of rape, it is the responsibility of the parents of the victims to break the silence and fight for Justice. It was an eye opener to people of Rattota as many were not aware of the judgment. People in and around Rattota are a simple folk mostly from working in tea plantations, taking care of the survival of their families.
After the introductory talk of the Director of the Human Rights Office, the lawyer Mr. S.P. Pathmadakshan who pursued the rape case of Divya elaborated the process of the legal procedure of the case. He explained the legal process that led to the conviction of the perpetrator. They expressed their gratitude for the Human Rights Office for all the hard work it had undertaken to rehabilitate the survivor and to pursue the legal matters for a fair trial.
The principal of Tamil Maha Vidyalaya in Rattota, Pradeshiya Sabha members, a police officer spoke at the public rally. Their main thrust was to educate the people to fight against child abuse, rape and Torture.
INTER-RELIGIOUS ALMS GIVING
An inter-religious Alms giving organized by the parents of the disappeared was held on the 30th August 2012 at Kandy Ampitiya, St Mary's Church Parish hall. It was the third such event organized by the Human Rights office Kandy with the parents of the disappeared in the Central province to commemorate their loved ones on the International day of the Disappeared.
The annual commemoration of the International Day of the Disappeared aims to draw attention to those people who have been imprisoned without their friends or relatives knowing where or why; also to highlight the work of those organizations who campaign against secret imprisonment and work to support the “disappeared” and their families.
In the last 40 years, the governments of Sri Lanka have used forced disappearances as a tool to suppress dissent and combat the internal armed conflict. Since 1971, there has been continuous use of enforced disappearances as a tool by the state, for what they referred to as the maintenance of "law and order". When people disappear in connection with armed conflict or other violence, their relatives endure terrible suffering as they struggle to find out what happened.
The parents of the disappeared organized this event in a very meaningful way to honor all victims of enforced disappearance and to tell the world of the seriousness of the offense and ensure non-repetition.
Buddhist monks, Buddhist nuns, Catholic priests, nuns and the parents of the disappeared gathered at the Ampitiya junction from where the procession began. They walked with ‘Hevisi’ drums beaten announcing the crowds of the event and the procession moved to the parish hall.
In a traditional Buddhist style the Almas giving was served to all the priests and religious after a sermon was preached by the Buddhist monk consoling the families and relatives of the disappeared, he said that most of the victims were breadwinners, hence the disappearance not only caused emotional and psychological anguish, but also economic dislocation to the surviving families, further the prelate appreciated the efforts of the Human Rights Office in bringing the religious leaders together." It is a new experience for the Buddhist monks to come for an Alms giving to a catholic church".
Closing the event Fr. Nandana Manatunga, the director of the Human Rights office addressed the gathering and said that the enforced disappearance is one of the worst human rights violations. As a huge number of people throughout the world are affected by this scourge. It is imperative for civil society and governments to forge solidarity in bringing to an end the practice of enforced disappearance and to ensure that the right to truth, justice, reparation and memory are guaranteed".
A silent protest was organized by the Kandy Human Rights office on the 26th June 2012 in collaboration with families and the victims of Torture, families of the disappearances, the families of the detainees without trial to commemorate the International day in support of the Torture victims and campaign against Torture.
Further Human Rights office requested the government to release the suspects who are detained without trial for many years in remand prisons and in various detention centers. In May 2012 the minister of Justice promised to release the names of all the detainees and expedite their trials by instituting special courts for this purpose. However so far the detainees are not brought to trial.
The protestors also called on the Kandy police to take immediate action against the perpetrator, school teacher who Tortured the student of Mahanama College Getambe Kandy.
“DEPRESSION : A GLOBAL CRISIS”
World Mental Health Day is a significant event to the Human Rights Office Kandy in its commitment to seek justice and provide the utmost care for survivors of violence. Our survivor groups celebrated the World Mental Health Day on the 5th of October at St. Mary’s Church Hall, Ampitiya. There were around 125 participants for the program.
The theme for the year 2012 is “Depression: A Global Crisis”. Depression is basically a mental state. It has been estimated that a population of 350 million suffers from depression. A research conducted in 17 countries, in the year 2011 has revealed that 1 out of 20 suffer from depression. The theme is of massive importance to our celebration, since many among us have fallen victim to different forms of violence, and have thereafter succumbed to depression. It is indeed mandatory to understand that this mental state is precipitated by various forms of violence and be aware of the treatment available for depression. The objective of the celebration is to raise awareness on depression as a mental state which is curable as well as preventive, both before and after succumbing into depressive state.
The chief guest for the occasion was Mr. K. M. Herath, a psychological counselor and therapist. The President and the secretary of the Families of the Disappeared welcomed the chief guest and the guest of honor with a handful of betel leaves. The traditional oil lamp was decorated to symbolize the hope of our survivor group for relief from every form of mental and psychological discomfort in all the survivors all over the world. With the lighting of the oil lamp they wished that the shadow of all mental discomfort and illness may be diminished from our society by the light of knowledge and awareness.
Meaningful songs, soul soothing music, and visuals are therapeutic to the mind and uplift the soul. The visual presentation embodied and generated peace of mind and the Puja dance invoked the blessings of the Deities on the participants.
Rev. Fr. Nandana Manatunga the Director of the Human Rights Office shared his vision on Mental Health and his expertise that he accumulated in the process of dedicated services with survivors of Human Rights violations.
With great pleasure the Human rights Office and the survivor group presented the publication “In Tune with the Rhythm of the Cosmos”. The magazine based on the thematic concern of the year’s World Mental Health Day is a part of our endeavor to prevent depression among us. The president of the Families of the disappeared presented the magazine with the hope and wish that the useful and inspiring articles in the magazine may guide us towards a positive outlook which in turn would pave the way to overcome all challenges and obstacles that may fall in our life’s path.
Mr. Herath the psychological counselor and therapist spoke on Depression and demonstrated the means of recovering from depression in order to enjoy peace of mind and a healthy life style. A simultaneous Tamil translation helped the Tamil speaking participants to understand the message of the Day. The session was very appealing with relaxation exercises in between. The participants enjoyed the activities. A tone of joy and happiness prevailed in the whole house when all of them took part in soft jogging. We assume that the invaluable knowledge guided the participants towards a brighter and healthier life style.
At the culmination of the day’s program Mr. Senarath the coordinator of the Families of the Disappeared delivered the vote of thanks. At the end of the day’s celebrations the participants enjoyed the lunch provided for them and returned to their homes with refreshed and reinvigorated mind, heart and spirit.
Ven. Aluthgama Dhammananda thero and Rev. Fr. Nandana Manatunga introduced a special event on the theme of "Respect the mother" by paying respect to all mothers. Rev. Fr. Nandana reminded the audience that the women are equal in dignity with men and that, even if imprisoned, they still deserve respect, including that of their children.
Family members of the remand female prisoners and sentenced prisoners were present at the event and a medical clinic was organized by the Kandy General Hospital for all present as a special event accompanying the days proceedings.
The International women's day was celebrated by the Human Rights Office Kandy on the 06th of March 2012 at Ampitiya St. Mary's church Parish hall with the theme "Post war challenges to Women". The programme was organized by the women's group of the families of the disappeared, the families of the prisoners and the families of the Torture and Rape survivors and the women's group and widows of the Ampitiya Parish.
The chief guest of the women's day celebration, Mrs. Nilani Manthrinayake (attorney-at-law) was received by the women representatives around 10.00 a.m. along with the guest of honor Rev. Fr. Bonifus Mendis of the National Seminary and the members of the support group.
The days programme and the significance of the day was explained by Fr. Nandana Manatunga, the director of the Human Rights office. He said that the women are being used by the srilankan society as mere objects and they are fast loosing their inherent dignity and that we need to restore the dignity of women.
“Dignity and Justice to all of us”
“Civil society members have to come together to protect their Rights but unfortunately in Sri Lanka the civil society is divided and therefore there is no common goal and the Srilnkan identity is lost" Dr. Deepika Udagama made this remark during her key note address at the Human Rights Award Ceremony 2011 and explained the role of the civil society in ensuring their Rights. Dr. Deepthika Udagama was the chief guest at the Human Rights Award ceremony organized by the Human Rights office to felicitate the Human Rights activists and award the winners of the Debate, Art and Essay competitions organized in view of the International Human Rights day 2011.
The event was held at the Trinity College Kandy on the 10thof December 2011 with more than 1500 participants both students and activists. Bishop Vianney Fernando was the guest of honor who outlined the urgent need for committed Human Rights activists to protect and promote the Rights of the Citizens. Fr. Nandana Manatunga and the staff of the Human Rights office Kandy Sri Lanka felicitated 05 special people for their commitment for Justice in spite of challenges.
The theme for the 2011 Human Rights day Award ceremony was “Dignity and Justice to all of us ". Calling everyone to work for a society where Dignity of the human person is upheld and every citizen is Equal before the law. The participation of the school debate teams from the Central province was at the highest level and the competition lasted for almost 04 months.
The award ceremony was made colourful with dances and cultural items. The parents of the disappeared, families of the prisoners, Torture and rape survivors, legal and medical personal were also encouraged and appreciated for their commitment and courage in seeking Justice at a time when Justice delivery system is gradually failing.
"No Health without Mental Health"
World mental Health day Celebration 2011
World Mental Health Day (Oct. 10) is a day for global health education, awareness, and advocacy. It was first celebrated in 1992 at the initiative of the World Federation for Mental Health. This day each October, thousands of supporters come together to celebrate this annual awareness program.
In Sri Lanka this day is part of the health awareness week. We at Human Rights Office Kandy, understanding the effects of Mental Health in the healing process of our survivor group celebrate this day for the first time with our survivors. The theme of the day is “No Health without Mental Health”
It was a half a day program held at St. Mary’s Church hall, Ampitiya. The participants of the celebration were: Our survivor group of families of disappeared, survivors of torture rape, survivors of Human rights violations, and their family members. There were also the members of the support group, the family counselors, the parishioners of Ampitiya St. Mary’s church, friends and well-wishers. There were around 100 participants for the celebration.
The families of the disappeared in the first meeting of the year 2011 decided to produce a magazine by themselves named as “Nadia” meaning River to share their experiences, to develop their writing and reading skills, and thereby to enrich their live. In March on Women’s Day the first issue was published and distributed. This day the 2nd issue was printed and distributed among the survivors titled as “No Health without Mental Health”.
A unique feature of the magazine is the articles were written by the mental health professionals with a view of providing a better information, knowledge and experience to our survivor groups. The president of the families of the disappeared in her introduction briefed the gathering on the vision goal and the objectives of the magazine.
Fr. Nandana the founder director of the Human Rights Office presented to the participants the importance of the Mental Health in the healing process of the survivors.
The director of the Community mental Health Resource Center at his staff at Katugastota was the guest speaker for the day. With the use of audio visuals he shared his wealth of knowledge and experiences on “how to live a happy life” and the participants were enriched with his presentation. He being a well knowable and experienced in his profession working for the mental health in the Kandy district regardless of cast and creed said that it was his first experience to participate in a meaningful mental health day celebration with a survivor group. ‘It is wonderful and unique experience’ he repeated again and again.
The local community of Ampitiya contributed to the occasion by producing dances, music and songs giving the participants healing of mind, body and spirit, with relaxation and enjoyment. It was a healing experience for the survivor group to be relived of the tension and stress taste of raising their minds to a high level of thinking and enjoying.
The day ended with a tone of joy and happiness.
Human Rights Office Kandy, Torture in Sri Lanka, Disappearances in Sri Lanka, Healing and Counseling
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