Target: President Mahinda Rajapaksa, president of Sri Lanka
Goal: Demand the release of political prisoners
Today amidst mounting pressure from the United States and other countries, Sri Lankan authorities released two political prisoners, who had been held on suspicion of breaking anti-terrorism laws but had not been charged with any crime. Their names are Father Praveen Mahesan and Ruki Fernando. They are human rights activists who had been working with the families of disappeared people since the end of a conflict in 2009 between government forces and the opposition Tamil Tiger rebel group.
Although it is commendable that the Sri Lankan government responded to international advice and released the two activists, other activists with no ties to the Tamil Tiger group are still in custody without charges. Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa could easily release these prisoners, who have not been convicted of any crime. If Sri Lanka is to be seen as a modern society, it is vital that the government respect the human rights and civil liberties of all its citizens.
The two men released on March 19, Praveen Mahesan and Ruki Fernando insisted that they will continue their human rights work. Upon his release, Mr. Fernando told the BBC, “I think the main reason we were released relatively quickly was the attention we received from people inside Sri Lanka, but also from people outside,” he said. “Many other people who are still in detention, if they were to get this kind of attention, I think many of them would find themselves free soon.”
One peaceful activist still in detention is Jeykumari Balendran, a woman who has spoken out forcefully against political disappearances. She was arrested Thursday on suspicion of harboring a man allegedly attempting to restart the Tamil Tiger movement. However, no proof has been offered. She has not been officially charged. Balendran and her daughter became activists only after her son was “disappeared” by government forces. Urge the Sri Lankan government and President Rajapaksa to release her today.
Dear President Mahinda Rajapaksa,
Thank you for releasing peaceful activists Praveen Mahesan and Ruki Fernando. Their work with the families of missing people is noble work meant to offer solace and answers to grieving families. However, more activists are still incarcerated without charges, in violation of their rights.
I am urging you today to release Jeyakumari Balendran and all other peaceful human rights activists currently jailed in Sri Lanka. If Sri Lanka is to be viewed as a modern society by the international community, it must begin respecting the rights of all its citizens.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: NASA via wikimedia commons