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Sri Lanka: Threats to ’Equal Ground’

14 March 2009

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Date: Sat, 21 Feb 2009 13:16:17 +0530
- From: Sahran Abeysundara

We would like to give you an update of what has been happening here because of our work with the communities in the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka.

A group named Jamatheye Islami - an extremist Muslim group - has been writing fictitious articles about EQUAL GROUND and inciting violence against us. The first article appeared in December . Subsequently, in January we did go to the East coast to conduct workshops - we did 4 workshops in the Muslim community and 1 with the Tamil community. After we got back, our coordinator of the Muslim workshops, started receiving death threats. He received 20 phone calls in one evening telling him he would be killed if he did not stop promoting homosexuality in those areas. We have a recording of one of these phone calls. He has filed a complaint with the police and with the Muslim Peace secretariat and the HRC. Our two Field officers are also under threat. they have been visited by members of the extremist group at their houses and threatened. So have their families.

The Muslim (extremists) newspaper called Engelthesam published in Kattandkudy in Batticaloa district have published articles condemning the work EQUAL GROUND have been doing with bogus articles highlighting our apparent ’Jewish’ agenda to pervert the Muslim community of Sri Lanka. We have also received three warning emails to date, one reminding us what would happen if we were to persist with this line of perversion. Both of our Muslim Trustees have had to resign because of these threats.

We are dealing with this in the way we best know how. Through the Press Complaints Commission, but the extremist group that is behind this - Jamatheye Islami - have many resources. Our biggest fear is not just of the physical harm but also the closure of EQUAL GROUND. These people are quite capable of paying politicians to do just that. Our work with the LGBTIQ communities here in Sri Lanka will be seriously jeopardized if so.

We are keeping you all up to date on the situation here, as we don’t know how these threats may be carried out if at all. Our strategy is to let as many people know about this as possible, but do nothing more to provoke a reaction, to this end we have stopped any more rebuttals to their articles (another article was printed in Englethesam and distributed today). We have however made a police entry against the email threats we have received and spoken to people (friends of friends) in the Police, Army and STF.

The latest development is a fictitious leaflet perpetrating to be issued by EQUAL GROUND which is being distributed in the East by these people naming people from EQUAL GROUND that need to be contacted for ’more information’. This gives rise to many threatening phone calls as well as putting the persons listed in physical danger as well.

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