An Email Memo from Ruki Fernando, a human rights activist within Sri Lanka
Dear Michael, I present herewith some personal information in response to your Memo.
Please find a a report, based on both incidents reported in mostly local media, but also some not reported, but narrated to me and colleagues directly in private. published Friday, 21st Feb. night SL time https://www.inform.lk/repression-of-dissent-in-sri-lanka/
It would be good also to look at previous reports – there are ones for 2018 and 2017 and some also for 2014-2015 https://www.inform.lk/category/rod/
There are very little human and financial resources to do these more comprehensively, fear is also a big factor, but would welcome any comments, suggestions from you as these plans are to continue these
My own house in a suburb of Colombo was visited by a intelligence officer about two weeks before elections, and my elderly parents questioned about my work. A colleague in North was questioned about my presence in the same town while I was there about a week after elections. Police had been calling me and visiting my office in various pretexts – all of which had not happened in early 2018 and previous years. Some colleagues also asked me not to visit some NGOs in north, as they feared I would be followed and they would be questioned in relation to my visit.
In the last 4 months or so, I have personally visited and talked to activists and journalists, who had had their offices (NGOs and media institutions) visited by intelligence personnel, their homes visited and questioned, and also summoned to Colombo for questioning. Also i have talked to those who have received death threats, subjected to physical assaults. I have not tabulated and analyzed these, but my overall impression is that there has been an intensification since about October 2019. I have traveled across the country in this period – probably all the provinces – and in the North and East, I was stopped and subjected to checking (sometimes intense, sometimes light) by Army in a way I have not been checked in other parts of the country.
In the North and East, after elections, several Tamil families of disappeared and activists working with them, including lawyers, have told me they are fearful now of carrying forward protests, court cases and campaigns. Some reported being visited and questioned at home, protest sites, sometimes being asked to stop protests, and others have also told me of stones being thrown at a house (which I visited and saw some damage to property) and being almost knocked down by a vehicle driven by a known supporter of a para military leader, believed to be close to the GR and Pohottuwa. Appointments and promotions to persons facing accusations of crimes before courts also seem to intensify fears. I have come to know of human rights related events that were postponed, cancelled (including one i was invited to speak in north) and some activists not undertaking overseas visits related to human rights.
AFTER I presented the article by Amanda Hodge I sent it to a number of knowledgeable friends as well as HR activists in Sri Lanka; and sought concrete data and commentary. One set of responses led by Gerald Peiris is already in place within the public realm via Thuppahi viz: “Today’s HR drumbeats vs GSL: Some Critical Responses,” 22 February 2020, https://thuppahis.com/2020/02/22/todays-hr-drumbeats-vs-gsl-some-critical-responses/#more-40774
I stress here that I have always found Ruki to be scrupulously honest and forthright. He is also courageous. He is a Negombo lad who attended St Peter’s College in Bambalapitiya and now resides in Colombo.
An EMAIL COMMENT from a SENIOR JOURNALIST in Sri Lanka, 25 Feb 2020: “Ruki is one of the bravest Sri Lankans still living and living in his own country (other brave Lankans have paid the ultimate price or now live in exile). Thank you for circulating this.”