Lawyers show solidarity with Weliamuna

(Lankadissent)Tuesday, 30 September 2008 16:49
 
Lawyers in the Supreme Court showed solidarity with colleague J.C. Weliamuna and staged a protest this afternoon (Sept. 30th) to condemn the hand grenade attack on his home two days ago.
They marched from Hulftsdorp Courts Complex to Keselwatte Junction.
Speaking here, Bar Association President Upul Jayasuriya said the anti-corruption and human rights crusade by Mr. Weliamuna would not be halted by harming his life.
Not just 100 or 500, more than 5,000 individuals of the calibre of Mr. Weliamuna will take that campaign forward, he said.
The BASL chief said the IGP should not take this attack lightly and must bring the culprits to book and ensure there would be no repetition of such incidents.
Mr. Weliamuna, who is also executive director of Transparency International Sri Lanka, spoke here and thanked his colleagues for their support.
He said he has continued threats to his life, the latest being an unknown visitor to his office just this afternoon inquiring after him, regarding which a complaint has been lodged with Keselwatte Police.

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TI condemns bombing of Sri Lankan anti-corruption advocate’s home

Berlin, 30 September 2008
Transparency International (TI) today vehemently condemned the attempt on the life of J. C. Weliamuna, prominent Sri Lankan anti-corruption and human rights advocate, and Executive Director of TI Sri Lanka (TISL), following a grenade attack on his family’s home in Colombo late Saturday, 27 September. Weliamuna, his wife and two young children escaped injury.

TI is deeply concerned by this attempt to intimidate anti-corruption and human rights advocates, and all those who dedicate their lives to building a better future for Sri Lanka. TI calls on the government of Sri Lanka to ensure a fair, speedy and transparent investigation, and to take all necessary steps to ensure the safety of Weliamuna, his family and the personnel of TI Sri Lanka.

The bombing of Weliamuna’s home is the latest episode in a continuing wave of harassment of activists, journalists and civil society – seen as a concerted effort to curb the freedom of expression in Sri Lanka – although the precise motives of Saturday’s perpetrator remains unclear.

TI, currently participating in a meeting on the protection of anti-corruption advocates being held in Helsinki at the invitation of the Finnish government, condemns all intimidation tactics against anti-corruption advocates, from professional discrimination to physical threats.

TI remains in constant contact with Weliamuna, tracking events as they unfold.

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Note to editors: A further obligation for the government of Sri Lanka to investigate the attack arises from the UN Convention against Corruption, which Sri Lanka has ratified. Article 13 of the Convention obliges signatory states to protect anti-corruption advocates and ensure “the freedom to … publish and disseminate information concerning corruption”.

New threats emerge for Sri Lankan rights lawyers29

Sep 2008 13:25:36 GMT
 Reuters,By C. Bryson Hull

COLOMBO, Sept 29 (Reuters) – An attack targeting a top Sri Lankan human rights lawyer drew U.S. and European condemnation on Monday, underscoring increasing threats faced by those who pursue cases against police or politicians in the Indian Ocean nation.

The Saturday hand-grenade attack on the Colombo home of J.C. Weliamuna, head of the local arm of graft watchdog Transparency International, injured no one but sent a chilling message to lawyers handling civil rights, graft and police abuse cases.

“I’m still pretty shaken,” Weliamuna told Reuters. “There is a heavy burden on the state to show that the rule of law exists. If this happened, they must resolve it. If they don’t, then no professional will be able to handle a sensitive issue.”

Weliamuna said he could not be sure which of the hundreds of graft and police abuse cases he is handling prompted the attack.

The Supreme Court last week ordered an investigation into police torture in a case he is pursuing, and in which other lawyers have already been threatened.

The attack, combined with increasing threats against other lawyers, now puts Sri Lankan rights attorneys squarely in the company of journalists and civil society figures who routinely face threats, harassment and murder for speaking out.

The United States and European Union on Monday called on the Sri Lankan government to provide protection to Weliamuna and prosecute those responsible.

“We look to the authorities to launch an immediate investigation into this act of violence and bring the perpetrators of this crime swiftly to justice,” the U.S. embassy in Colombo said in a statement.

The E.U. said it noted “with concern the trend in attacks and threats on journalists, civil society organizations and now a lawyer.”

Sri Lanka’s government accepts that it has problems with rights violations, and that it prosecutes those against whom it can establish evidence.

Journalists have long been threatened, harassed or killed in Sri Lanka for writing critical stories against powerful figures in government or the Tamil Tiger rebel group that has waged a separatist war since 1983.

But while most threats to media stem from a war where both sides are accused of rights abuses, lawyers are running afoul of the politically connected or police acting with impunity outside of the fighting, Asian Human Rights Commission Director Basil Fernando said.

“If it is like this in Colombo and other peaceful areas of the country, than can you imagine what it is like in the north and east where the war is?” Fernando, a lawyer from Sri Lanka, told Reuters by telephone from Hong Kong.

He said other lawyers told him they were unwilling to take cases involving politicians or police, because of a system that encourages corrupt politicians to keep policemen who are willing to do their bidding in exchange for political protection.

“Only a few people like Weliamuna were willing, and now we can see the result,” Fernando said.

Weliamuna said he had no reason to suspect the government would not pursue his case and those of his clients, but said it would take “high-level commitment” to produce results.

“I am keeping my fingers crossed that investigations are going ahead,” he said. (Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)

Bomb Attack on Human Rights Lawyer and Civic Activist indicative of a dangerous trend

29.09.08
Media Release/NPC

On Saturday night an unidentified gang lobbed two hand grenades at the residence of Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL) Director and Attorney at-Law J.C Weliamuna. Mr. Weliamuna s residence is located in close proximity to a police station (Kohuwela), and an army camp (Kohuwela-Pepiliyana road. The attack demonstrates the blatant disregard criminals now have for regular structures of law and order.

The National Peace Council of Sri Lanka condemns the grenade attack on the residence of J C Weliamuna. The NPC views this attack as part of a broader assault on human rights, good governance, accountability and integrity in public life and thus demands stern action be taken against those responsible. We are particularly saddened by this attack as it had taken place at night, when his family and two young children were present.  Mr Weliamuna has been a colleague and partner in work we are doing.  We appreciate his courage and commitment to the rule of law and to integrity in public life.

Mr. J.C. Weliamuna is presently involved in a number of cases which deal with infringements upon fundamental rights and public interest litigation. Of particular interest are pending cases which involve government officials and member of the police force. Furthermore, last week Mr. Weliamuna made submissions to the Supreme Court, stating that a fellow lawyer had been subjected to death threats for fulfilling his professional duties.

The attack on Mr. Weliamuna is thus suggestive of a dangerous trend of intimidation and interference in the country s legal processes. The NPC views this attack as an attempt to harm and intimidate a lawyer and civil society activist and to possibly send a warning to all advocates of human rights, good governance, accountability and integrity in public life. This act of violent intimidation can be interpreted as a thinly veiled attempt to silence critical and dissenting voices in the country.

We join the Free Media Movement (FMM), civil society activists and the Bar Association of Sri Lanka s (BASL) in condemning this attack as an act which threatens not only us all but the very democratic values upon which our respective professions and institutions are founded.

Governing Council

The National Peace Council is an independent and non partisan organisation that works towards a negotiated political solution to the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. It has a vision of a peaceful and prosperous Sri Lanka in which the freedom, human rights and democratic rights of all the communities are respected. The policy of the National Peace Council is determined by its Governing Council of 20 members who are drawn from diverse walks of life and belong to all the main ethnic and religious communities in the country.

 

 

 

 

 

ON THE GRENADE ATTACK ON J.C. WELIAMUNA’S RESIDENCE

 

28th September 2008

The Free Media Movement (FMM) vehemently condemns the grenade attack last night on the residence of Mr. J.C. Weliamuna, prominent attorney-at-law, and Executive Director of Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL). According to reports, the attack took place at around 11:45 p.m. on 27th September 2008, in which two grenades were thrown at Mr. Weliamuna’s residence, one of which did not explode. We understand that while there is damage to the house, there were no physical injuries sustained by Mr. Weliamuna or his wife and two infant children who were in the house at the time. In what has become a familiar if horrifying pattern in respect of similar attacks, Mr. Weliamuna’s residence is located in close propinquity to a police station (Kohuwela), an army camp (Kohuwela-Pepiliyana road, and close to which there is a regular army mobile checkpoint at night) and a major checkpoint and roadblock in an entrance to Colombo (the Saranankara Road bridge).

Mr. Weliamuna, who is a well-known human rights lawyer, presently appears in a number of important pending fundamental rights cases, some of which involve high officials associated closely with the present regime. In particular, we note that Mr. Weliamuna was counsel in a fundamental rights application involving serious police malpractice that came up for hearing last week, in which the Supreme Court ordered a special investigation regarding the police on questions relating to criminal intimidation and the filing of false charges against the petitioner by the police. In addition to his legal practice, Mr. Weliamuna is engaged in the public campaign against bribery and corruption in his work with TISL, as well as civil society advocacy in regard to the non-implementation of the Seventeenth Amendment to the Constitution. In the recent past, we note that TISL has published a Corruption Perception Index (CPI) and that Mr. Weliamuna has been an active voice against insidious attempts to whittle down the scope of the Seventeenth Amendment. 

FMM regards this attack as a matter of grave significance. It is an attempt to harm and intimidate a lawyer and civil society activist, and through such attacks to send a broader message to those who represent the cause of human rights, good governance, accountability and integrity in public life. This reprehensible act of violent intimidation therefore is an attempt to silence critical and dissenting voices, including civil society and the media. It also represents a clear challenge to the independence and integrity of the legal profession, and contempt for the rule of law and legal processes. FMM would urge the media and legal professions, civil society, and the judiciary to regard this attack as an act of aggression against all of us and the democratic values upon which our respective professions and institutions are founded.

FMM calls upon the responsible authorities to immediately conduct a full, independent, and impartial investigation into this attack with a view to apprehending and prosecuting the perpetrators, and to make such findings public as a matter of urgency. We hope that such an investigation will not go the way of such investigations in a countless number of cases before, whereby nothing tangible has ever resulted by way of bringing the culprits to justice. FMM would like to express its concern for and solidarity with Mr. Weliamuna and his young family at this time of acute distress.

Grenade attack on the house of a senior lawyer involved in cases relating to anti-corruption and human rights abuses

 

(Hong Kong, September 28, 2008)

Last night at 11:40 pm in Colombo, Sri Lanka a grenade was thrown inside the house of the leading lawyer J.C. Weliamuna, who is the Executive Director of Transparency International in Sri Lanka, and a well- known human rights lawyer. Severe damage was caused to a part of the upper floor of the house, and the sound of the explosion was heard several miles away. After calling the police and examining the premises another unexploded grenade was found.

Mr. Weliamuna said that he has all his life had no personal enemies and therefore this attack has to be connected to his work.

Mr. Weliamuna has appeared in many sensitive cases relating to corruption and abuses of human rights. Several cases are pending in which some powerful politicians are the defendants. Last week Transparency International published a report, in which Sri Lanka was listed as 92 on the corruption list.

Mr. Weliamuna has constantly appeared in many well known human rights cases on behalf of victims of torture, extra-judicial killings and disappearances. Last Friday the Supreme Court issued special orders for investigation of a case that Mr. Weliamuna appeared in which a young man from Kandana complained of attempted assassination by some police officers.

Yesterday morning Mr. Weliamuna moved a motion at the Bar Association of Sri Lanka regarding a lawyer who has received death threats due to appearance in an extra-judicial killing case where the victim had been the complainant in two cases regarding police officers, for bribery and torture. The Bar Association unanimously resolved to pursue the complaint of the lawyer and condemned the interference into the work of lawyers and resolved to pursue the matter with the Inspector General of Police and other authorities.

“This attack is chilling but not surprising. Threats and attacks are targeted at everyone who tries to highlight the abuses of politicians and state officers,” said Basil Fernando, the director of the Asian Human Rights Commission. “Now senior lawyers themselves are being targeted for nothing other than being engaged in their professional duties to their clients.”

Fernando further said, “even at the worst times in the late 1980s no senior lawyer was targeted. What is taking place is a most comprehensive form of repression with the view to silence everyone who is making any attempt to seek protection of law. This is one of the most terrible times in the country.”

The Asian Human Rights Commission calls on the Sri Lankan government to thoroughly investigate this matter with a Special Investigation Unit (SIU) of the Criminal Investigation Division (CID). There is all the likelihood of the investigation being mishandled unless special attempt is made for inquiries to be conducted by a competent and independent SIU.

It is also the duty of all the lawyers and the Bar Association of Sri Lanka to come strongly in support of one of its members who has taken a very keen interest in the rights of others.

The Supreme Court and the judiciary also need to take up the issue of the protection of the lawyers.

AHRC also calls upon the lawyers outside Sri Lanka to intervene with the Sri Lankan government to condemn this attack and also to ensure an independent inquiry by a competent body.

The UN agencies and the international anti-corruption and human rights organisations should intervene for the defence of one of the best known human rights defenders in Sri Lanka.

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About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

Govt. wants independent commissions curtailed

(lankadissent.com)Saturday, 27 September 2008 14:16
 
Transparency International alleges 29 ruling party MPs have moved to curtail powers of the independent public, police and judicial services commissions enacted through the 17th Amendment to the constitution.
Executive Director of TI J.C. Weliamuna says that these MPs have sent a written request to Constitutional Affairs Minister Dew Gunasekara regarding their objective.

Mr. Weliamuna said this would take the country’s constitution back to the 1972 period.

According to a government minister who wished to remain anonymous, these MPs have said unlimited powers being enjoyed by independent commissions comes in their way in taking decisions on public petitions.

The MPs have asked that constitutional amendments be brought in to allow parliamentary committees to mediate in orders of independent commissions.

Several opposition MPs who have come to an understanding with the government are supporting this proposal.

Mr. Weliamuna told ‘Lanka Dissent’ that such amendments would once against deny these commissions their independence and allow politicians to rule the country according to their wishes.

Hearing of Tissainayagam’s case postponed

 

    
By T. Farook Thajudeen (Daily Mirror)
The hearing of senior journalist Jeyaprakash Sittampalam Tissainayagam’s voir dire inquiry was put off for October 2 and 6 by the Colombo High Court Judge Ms. Deepali Wijesundara as the scheduled witness Assistant Superintendent of Police Ranasinghe of the TID was ill and unable to attend court.

At the outset of yesterday’s hearing the Senior State Counsel Rohantha Abeysuriya informed court that the prosecution witness ASP Ranasinghe of the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID) was ill and would not be able to attend court to give evidence for another four days and requested that voir dire inquiry be fixed on another date

Mr. Anil Silva, defence counsel queried whether a medical certificate was being produced.

In this case J.S. Tissainayagam was indicted for an offence said to have been committed during the period between June, 2006 and June, 2007. He was charged with unknown persons committed an offence or abetted the commission of an offence which intends to cause the commission of acts of violence or racial or communal disharmony through the printing or distribution of a North Eastern Monthly magazine.

He was also charged for committing an offence by contributing or collecting or obtaining information or donating funds for the purpose of terrorism through the collection of funds from the magazine, which is an offence punishable under the Emergency Regulations.

Senior State Counsel Rohantha Abeysuriya appeared for the prosecution

Mr. Anil Silva with M.A. Sumanthiran, Sharman Gunasekera , Dhanaraj Samarakoon and Suresh Fernando appeared for the accused.

Athugala suspends ‘Alakamandawa’

 
Lanka Dissent, Thursday, 25 September 2008 15:53   

Questions have been raised over the sudden halt of popular ‘Alakamandawa’ programme of state-run Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation following a directive by Chairman Ariyarathna Athugala.

Speaking to ‘Lankadissent’ a senior SLRC media man said on condition of anonymity that the programme had been stopped without prior notice, after it featured Dharmasiri Bandaranayake, a film and teledrama producer disliked by the chairman.

Many who watched the first episode of the program featuring Mr. Bandaranayake were puzzled when the remaining part was not telecast the following week.

In addition, the producer of that ‘Alakamandawa’ program has been cast out from the program, the source added.

In recent times, several program producers and directors have been dismayed by the chairman’s unruly actions and certain programmes, including tele dramas have been similarly suspended, the media man said.

The above source was contacted after attempts to reach the SLRC Chairman failed.

Meanwhile, reports allege the SLRC Chairman has informed the management not to use for any further programmes a presenter who had invited Mr. Bandaranayake to a ‘Nuga Sevana’ programme