At a press conference in Colombo on 31 August 2013, United Nations high commissioner for human rights Navi Pillay highlighted serious ongoing concerns, while recognising progress in some areas. Numerous people continue to be denied human rights, in part because so many others are in denial about abuses by state or rebel forces.
In July 1983 in Sri Lanka, state-sponsored violence and undermining of democracy led to lengthy civil war and widespread suffering. Thirty years later, it would appear that many have failed to learn from the past.
Sri Lanka’s Muslim minority has faced a hate campaign in recent months. The Friday Forum, a citizens’ group which includes former Anglican Bishop of Colombo Duleep de Chickera, has written to President Mahinda Rajapaksa calling on him to act. The letter reads as follows:
When those in power disregard human rights and undermine the rule of law, the results can be horrific, observes Savitri Hensman, commenting on recent developments in Sri Lanka. It is to be hoped that, today, non-violent means of resistance will be used, as Sri Lankans and those who care about Sri Lanka seek to defend democracy and civil liberties.
Sri Lanka is facing a constitutional crisis after the chief justice was impeached, in a process ruled unlawful by the supreme court. The bid by cabinet members to replace her with one of their own legal advisers has been widely criticised as an attack on the independence of the judiciary. Pro-democracy activists are challenging the move, despite the danger they face from an increasingly dictatorial regime.
Father Michael Rodrigo’s life and witness in Sri Lanka reflect the importance of perseverance, hope and faith in a better future, says Savi Hensman. This remarkable man still has something to say today, when all too many people live precariously in a divided and often violent world.