[Press statement] 22nd December 2014
Free Media Movement condemns the attack by a government politician on the ‘Vidiye Wirodhaya’ event held in Hambantota Yesterday (21st December), where a group of civil society organizations under the banner ‘Viyaruwata Erehiwa, Jeewithaya Wenuwen’ (Against Rage, For Life) came together to build a common voice that demands democratic reforms against anti democratic activities of the current government.
FMM also demands that the government takes tangible action to prevent any future attacks, threats and intimidation by mobs, under the leadership of government politicians, to suppress peaceful voices of citizens during this election period.
This attack is a gross violation of freedom of expression of Sri Lankan citizens and a barrier for a free and fair election.
The attack has allegedly been carried out by Hambanthota Mayor Eraj Fernando who rose to fame due to “toy pistol” controversy. Britto Fernando, Jayathilaka Bandara, Philip Dissanayake and Secratory of the Free Media Movement Sampath Samarakoon were among those that have been attacked and threatened by these seemingly government sponsored goons. Mr. Jayathilaka Bandara, Mr Prasanna Fernando and Mr. Sampath Samarsakonn were hospitalized due to injuries caused by the thugs.
“While we were protesting in front of the main bus stand Hambantota Mayor Mr. Eraj Frenando came with a pistol and cut throat razors attacked us around 10.10 am. It was 10.25 when we called 911. Around 3.30 when we went to Hambantota police station to make a complaint they informed that they had not been informed about the incident by the emergency unit.” Mr. Sampath Samarakoon said.
Executive Director of CaFFE, Rajith Keerthi Tennakoon, in the CaFFE Election Report 41, stated that “Elections are only a part of political rights and currently the right of holding an opinion, the right to expression, the right to campaign peacefully and the right to free movement of opposition activists are being constantly violated. These street performers have protested many regimes but it was the first time in recent history that they were assaulted like this.”
It is clear that various groups of government supporters constantly attack journalist and civil society activists who are in anyway seen to be critical of the government.
We demand that the government, and especially the Sri Lanka Police Force, enforce law and order, and act against these government politicians who are trying to unlawfully obstruct public movements, and to ensure freedom of association and freedom expression of the people of Sri Lanka.
We also urge the Election Commissioner to take necessary actions to ensure a free and fair election, and create an atmosphere free of violence and intimidation for a free and fair election that demonstrates a truthful public opinion.
We request all people who value law and peace to join hands against these attacks.