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.

# # #

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.