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Sri Lanka: Open letter to ensure the security of Herman Kumara and Anura Roshantha

27 March 2012

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Ensure the security of Herman Kumara and Anura Roshantha

Monday, 26 March 2012

We, the undersigned civil society organisations and activists, are deeply disturbed by the threats faced by Mr. Herman Kumara of the National Fisheries Solidarity Movement (NAFSO) and Mr. Aruna Roshantha Fernando of All Ceylon Fisher Folk Federation (ACFFF) and condemn these attempts to stifle democratic rights and silence these leaders.

Herman Kumara was followed from the airport by an unknown group upon his return to Sri Lanka after attending a meeting overseas on 24th February 2012. This group tailed him to his village and made inquiries from neighbours about his whereabouts. Herman Kumara believes that their intention was to abduct him.

We believe that that the current threat to Herman Kumara is a direct consequence of his naming in Parliament by the Minister of Fisheries and Aquatic Resource Development, Dr. Rajitha Senarathne on 21st February 2012, as one of two persons responsible for the protests of the fishing community against the fuel price increase – in which one fishermen in Chilaw was shot dead by the Special Task Force (STF). Despite numerous statements by the protestors themselves that their agitation was spontaneous and self-organised, and not instigated by others, both Herman Kumara and Anura Roshantha have had to go into hiding in fear of their safety because of these unfounded and malicious allegations.

Herman Kumara is the national convenor of a vibrant fisher people’s organisation in Sri Lanka – the National Fisheries Solidarity Movement (NAFSO) – and he has been the General Secretary of the World Federation of Fisher People (WFFP) for several years. He is a leading activist involved in other movements including the People’s Alliance for the Right to Land (PARL). He has worked tirelessly on individual campaigns to protect the rights of fishermen in the Negombo lagoon, whose livelihood was threatened by the introduction of sea-planes, and in opposing moves to appropriate the land of villagers in Kalpitiya for tourist development.

We have worked with Herman Kumara and his organisation for many years and we know the important role they have played in creating people’s awareness and sustaining the struggle against injustice where the socio-economic and democratic rights of people are threatened by the State or other actors. Herman Kumara and NAFSO have also participated in building solidarity between people in the North and East and those in the South through people-to-people dialogues for peace and sustainable development. The despicable threats and the use of the state media to intimidate Herman Kumara and NAFSO aim to undermine all these initiatives.

These threats against Herman Kumara and others are not isolated incidents but rather, just an example of a pattern of events that is taking place in the country to intimidate civil society organisations and human rights defenders involved in protecting and securing the rights of our fellow citizens. As organisations and individuals actively involved in struggles and movements for social justice and democratic rights, we are deeply concerned by these recent incidents targeting individuals, and the broader trends of intimidation and violence.

We would like to appeal to all people, regardless of political opinion, to join in solidarity to condemn this intimidation and to call for basic freedoms of association and expression to be protected so that Herman Kumara, Anura Roshantha, and many others activists and organisations, can function freely.

We appeal to the government of Sri Lanka to take urgent steps to:

Conduct impartial investigations into the threats faced by Herman Kumara and Anura Roshantha;

1. To protect the lives of these activists exercising their lawful and constitutionally protected freedoms;

2. To instruct state security and intelligence agencies to desist from surveillance and intimidation of all activists engaged in non-violent social action;

3. To unequivocally and publicly defend the rights of human rights defenders in accordance with the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.

Endorsed by (Organizations):

- Movement for Land and Agricultural Reforms (MONLAR)
- Uva farmers’ collective of poison free agriculture (UFCPFA)
- Vikalpani National Women’s Federation
- People’s Health Movement
- Sri Lanka Nature Group
- Environment Conservation Trust
- Mothers and Daughters of Lanka
- Womens Centre
- IMADR Asia Committee
- Sri Lanka human rights defender network
- Centre for Environmental Justice.
- Savisthri women’s Movement
- Women’s Action for Social Justice
- National Active Women’s United Collective
- Centre for Policy Alternatives
- Free Trade Zones & General Services Employees Union
- Movement Of Stand-Up
- All Lanka Peasants Front
- Interfaith Cooperation Forum
- International Movement of Catholic Agricultural and Rural Youth
- International Federation of Catholic Adult Rural Movements
- FIAN Sri Lanka Working Group
- Uwa Vellassa Kantha Sanvidhanaya
- Southern Fisheries organization, Matara
- Christian Alliance for Social Action
- People for Human Rights and Equality (PHRE), Melbourne, Australia
- Lawyers for Democracy
- Lanka Solidarity
- People’s Alternatives to Climate Change and Crisis in Agriculture

Endorsed by (Individuals):

- Rev. Fr. Sarath Iddamalgoda
- Fr. Oswald B. Firth, OMI
- Rev. Fr. Reid Shelton Fernando
- Rev Fr Ashok Stephen OMI
- Prof. Kumar David
- Prof Amal Kumarage
- Dr. Sumathy Sivamohan - Senior Lecturer
- Dr. Deepika Udagama—academic
- Lionel Bopage
- Melani Manel Perera – Journalist
- Danesh Karunanayake - academic
- Sunila Abeysekara
- Gamini Viyangoda
- Balasingham Skanthakumar
- Chandraguptha Thenuwara- Artist/ Senior Lecturer
- Padma Pushpakanthi- Social Development Activist
- K. P. Somalatha- Social Development Activist
- Priyanjith Alokabandara – freelance journalist
- Anushaya Collure
- H.M.P. Sanjeewanie – Researcher
- Ruki Fernando
- Shanthi Sachithanandam
- Sandun Thudugala
- Rohini Hensman (freelance writer and researcher)
- Mylvaganam Sooriasegaram
- Santhush Kumar Pararajasingam
- Sunil Bastian
- Shamala Kumar, University of Peradeniya
- Ainslie Joseph, Convenor of Christian Alliance for Social Action
- Ahilan Kadirgamar
- Balachandran Gowthaman
- Mahendran Thiruvarangan
- Shakya Pathmalal Lahiru
- Niyanthini Kadirgamar
- Marshal Fernando
- Dayapala Thiranagama
- Mahendran Thiruvarangan
- Chinthaka Rajapakse