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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.

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