Human Rights Salutation 2016, was held at the Good Shepherd Convent Kandy on the 11th December 2016 with the theme “Stand up for someone's rights today” around 500 participants including religious leaders of all faiths joined the occasion. The event was organized by the Human Rights Office Kandy, Sri Lanka to salute 03 prominent Human Rights Activists and award the winners of school and Religious Schools Art and Essay competition held in view of the Human Rights Day 2016.
Rev. Fr. Oswald Firth OMI, a stalwart in development field and protection of the Rights of the poor was the chief guest and Ruki Fernando, Award winner of the 2008 Human Rights salutation, who was recognized for his dedicated world renowned Human Rights activism delivered the key note address.
Fr. Nandana Manatunga introducing the event explained the need to appreciate the courage of survivors as well as Human Rights defenders and activists and stated that HRO encourage school children, victims and activists on the Human Rights to continue the mission of defending, protecting and promoting the rights of all the citizens.
Marisa De Silva, the young Human Rights Activist the writer was awarded for her dedicated and untiring work for the marginalized in Sri Lanka in defending and campaigning for the rights of the minorities seeking Justice and redress for the victims.
The Torture survivors T. Ramesh Kumara and Rohitha Liyanage were awarded for their courage in voicing against Torture and other cruel, inhuman ,degrading treatment and punishment, and seeking justice to punish the perpetrator police officers and the TID, during the most repressive regime, risking their lives and their families, breaking the silence of the suffering survivors of Torture.
Rev. Fr Oswald Firth OMI was shared his experiences during his address and said that defending the Rights of the victimized cannot be postponed as you may be the next victim and invited everyone to join in protecting and promoting the Rights of the defenseless, the marginalized and the poor. Fr Firth further shared his experiences during the JVP insurrection while in Kandy as the Setik director, his encounters with the law enforcing agencies .his interventions when he attempted to save the detained youth in various detention centers who were on the death row. Fr. Firth stated that he is still active in the North of Sri Lanka with Peace & Reconciliation programmes.
Ruki Fernando presented an over view of the Human Rights situation in the country and paused several questions to the audience and said that we need to protect & defend the Rights of the other as well as our own Rights. Further he invited everyone to journey with victims, even if the journey is long than we expect.
The former Anglican Bishop of Kurunegala Rt. Rev. Dr. Kumara Illangasinghe presented the award on behalf of HRO to Rev. Oswald Firth for the services rendered during the past many years as the Director of Setik - Kandy, National Director Caritas and Director - Centre for Society and Religion (CSR) of the oblate congregation and to the whole country.
Certificates were awarded to the members of the debate teams in recognition of the participation in the “Mandela Trophy Debate Competition held in September 2016 between the “Prisoners of the Dumbara - Bogambara prison & the students of the Law Faculty of Paradeniya. The debate was organized by the HRO in collaboration with the Department of Prisons during the prisons week.
The winners of Art & Essay competitions were awarded to encourage students who will be the future in creating a culture of Human Rights in our country. It was noteworthy that 1952 students from 305 schools in Central Province participated in Art & Essay competitions. 739 children from 180 multi Religious Schools ( Sunday Schools ) participated in the 2016 Art & Essay competitions. The Art & Essay competitions initiated a discussion on the most crucial human rights issues among the students, teachers, and parents, religious and within a larger section of the civil society and it was remarkable to note the number of Muslim children from various Muslim schools & religious schools participated in the both Art & Essay competitions.
The parents of the disappeared, families of the prisoners, Torture and rape survivors, who participated in various workshops during the year were also presented with souvenir’s to encourage and appreciate their commitment and consistency in their efforts to reactivate the dysfunctional Justice system that constantly failed them in the past.
Human Rights Office Kandy, Torture in Sri Lanka, Disappearances in Sri Lanka, Healing and Counseling
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