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
- Rev. Fr. Yogeshwaran S.J - Human Rights Lawyer- work with the families of the disappeared.
- Rev. Sr. Alexander Sisters of Charity - Human rights activist- working with prisoners in Boossa
- Mr. Amitha Ariyaratne- Human Rights Lawyer- work with the Torture victims
- Ms. Jayanthi Dandeniya -Human Rights activists - organized the parents of the missing persons
- Mr. Ranil Kumara - Prison welfare officer- who tirelessly works for the families of the prisoners
- Mrs. Indra Kumari - sister of a Torture victim and a Human Rights activists who organizes groups for Human Rights
- S. Jeevaratnam - Human Rights activists from the Tea plantations
- Yamuna Sandamali - rape victims who fought for 08 years seeking Justice and redress. The court finally sentenced the perpetrator for 10 years of rigorous imprisonment in November this year. She was just 13 year when it happened in 2002 and the perpetrator happened to be her own father.
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.