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Sri Lanka: Death Threats To Employees At The Port

Sri Lanka: Death Threats To Employees At The Port Authority

The employees in the Sri Lanka Ports Development Authority complained of death threats while engaged in a work-to-rule action for the improvement of wages. These employees have complained that for four years there has been no improvement of wages, although living costs have been rising steadily and significantly. Yesterday, the 11th November, they successfully completed a full day work-to-rule action with the view to put pressure on the Authority to deal with their demands. On the same day several leaders complained of death threats to the employees and to themselves. One employee also complained of assault.

President Mahinda Rajapakse is reported to have ordered an investigation into the alleged issuance of death threats.

Meanwhile, the Chairperson of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into Abductions and Disappearances was reported in the media to have stated that the information given by the police regarding inquiries into alleged abductions relating to the commission’s inquiry cannot be trusted to be the truth. The commission has received around 15,000 complaints so far but has inquired into only 98 disappearances and 76 abductions from the Trincomalee and Kanthale areas. The Chairman of the commission observed that in some instances of alleged abductions the complainants have revealed that the abducted persons had to pass through several police or military checkpoints along their routes. These vehicles carrying abductees could been examined and the abductions could have been prevented.

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Also, the Sri Lankan government speaking through the Minister for Disaster Management and Human Rights admitted that Sri Lanka’s human rights record needed to be improved. The Minister was responding to a strongly worded report issued recently by the European Commission on the abysmal human rights record of Sri Lanka. The report said that unlawful killings by the police, soldiers and pro-government and paramilitaries were a major problem. So too were torture and disappearances. The report further stated that the police were unwilling and unable to investigate the violations.

The Minister spoke of an action plan for dealing with torture, disappearances, extrajudicial killings and the promotion and protection of women.

However, the government spokesman, Minister Lakshman Yapa, stated that the calling for the abolition of the Prevention of Terrorism Act is irresponsible as no one would be responsible for any acts that may be caused in the absence of such a law.

The government is clearly taking no action in order to abolish any of the draconian laws which give the security forces the powers of arrest, detention, interrogation and search by suspending the normal safeguards of citizens provided under the law and the constitution. Thus, the action plan that the Minister of Disaster Management and Human Rights is talking about does not indicate any changes of the environment within which massive violations of human rights have been taking place in the country with absolute impunity.

Despite of government assurances there is no indication of any attempt to improve the security of citizens as against the arbitrary actions of the police and the security forces. There is a good likelihood of abductions and disappearances being used against employees who demand improved wages and conditions as they are facing extremely difficult economic hardships throughout the country. Students and the unemployed graduates who have been demanding a government response regarding their grievances were subjected to tear gas and attacks by security forces in the recent weeks.

Meanwhile, the journalists, human rights activists and the opposition political parties are also complaining of constant and continuous harassment.

The Asian Human Rights Commission calls for effective action for the protection of people by way of the abolition of the Prevention of Terrorism Act and also by ensuring proper investigations into all complaints of human rights abuses.

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.


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