Nimalka Fernando is one of Sri Lanka’s best known human rights activists and the President of the International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR). Nimalka’s activism has in recent years generated violent pushback from the Government – prime time radio programmes on State owned channels have openly and with impunity discussed ways to silence her permanently, and high ranking members of Parliament have threatened her, and other leading activists, with bodily harm.

We begin our conversation looking at how Nimalka began her life as an activist, from her days at Bishops College and work in the Student Christian Movement. Asked whether, looking back at her life, she has any regrets, Nimalka says the only one is that she should have had a daughter!

Several years ago, Nimalka noted that Sri Lanka is a classic example of a failed state. She is asked whether post-war, she believes the same, and how many people in the country also believe that the country today is a failed state.

Referring in particular to the State radio broadcast which discussed ways to silence her, Nimakla is asked why her work and activism generates so much of hate, so frequently. Following from this, and in light of what she has had to personally and professionally endure, Nimalka is asked how she can inspire a younger generation to take up human rights advocacy and activism.

We go on to talk about the current UN investigations into allegations of war crimes, and given the hostility towards it from government and the general ignorance around it in the South, whether it has any potential to strengthen reconciliation in post-war Sri Lanka.

Focussing on the internal strife in civil society, and the fact that human rights NGOs in Sri Lanka don’t and can’t often work together around shared goals, Nimalka is asked how and to what degree, moving forward, they can really help in articulating a democratic alternative to the status quo. Following from this, she is asked whether it can be seen as a failure of civil society to engender and sustain a critical mass in support of human rights and democracy (referring to the oft quoted ‘silent majority’).

Nimalka ends the conversation by focussing on Mahinda Rajapaksa the politician and activist, with whom she interacted closely in the past and Mahinda Rajapaksa the President, and what led to the dramatic change between the two public personae.

Nimalka Fernando from Young Asia Television on Vimeo.

  • Dev

    @Sanjana: I have a bone to pick with you. You invite all these great people (previously Kalana) and then rush them out the door !! Far too short an interview, wish it were longer.

    Thank you Nimalka for your services to the nation.

  • Jayalath

    Oh, great conversation , and what Comes from her mouth is absolutely true . I do not know that any one can challenge for that . great . Well done .

  • Srivanamoth

    Good interview. The truth shall set the silent majority free one day, one day. Iron bars and white vans cannot silence a country surely in the 21st century for ever and ever.

  • Jayalath

    Dear. Mrs . Fernando
    An Inspirational conversation and in which she exposes the real facts of ailing political society of Sri Lanka for decades. Remarkably in defiant manner . The most important message that I admire of her whole conversation is the evaluation of last 30 years of horrific political era in Sri Lanka including the exposure of arbitrary dictatorial leaders like JR’s and Premadsa .this is the truth and reality of 36 years Of political history in Sri Lanka .but I disagree with you in certain facts that you have disclosed . Considering to rajspaksa’s historical political aspirations . Because it is a dream of any politician to achieve in life as much as he can .
    I can still remember how Rajapaksa challenged to Premadasa ‘ s brutality when there was no one left to lead mass of people at that time that Rajspaksa fearlessly mobilised people against Premadasa regime . So called some leaders that we have today lived comfortably in abroad .
    I remember When we did PADA YATHRA from South to Colombo which was led by Rajapaksa against the Brutal Premadasa regime and Rajapaksa was the only person who had gut to do so at that time And the fear for life was inexplicable . there were terrible rumours spreading cross the country at the beginning of PADA YATRA that many people believed , probably the most people who participate for the first lap of PADA YATHRA would not alive to finish the last lap , this is how bad the situation was at that Era .which shouldn’t forget by any one first place . Yet it should not be the excuse today .

    So, essentially I do not say that Rajapaksa is as bad as others in the past and what worries me is that he is running out time to fix the country that torn apart from the blunders of previous leaders .
    Just imagine how he had to deal when whole world come against him . If you can remember what happened during the last bastion of war that whole opposition , mainly Ranil and his people with numerous medias including international those all who worked against the government .so , the state had to put some control and suppression to over come difficulties . Which is absolutely normal .
    Therefore I reckon that many incidents are happening today due to the pressure has been unleashed by certain group of people and countries . Apparently we know many NGO s are operating in the interest of some body else and it is a biggest scam which has been exposed today .
    However , I regrettably concern the situation of country ,particularly in the short time of post war . And religious tension and the bickering between the BBS and other minorities , most importantly regarding to the intervention of west .
    Those are notably chaotic and inevitably perilous .

  • Jayalath

    Kindly could you know us what is your current plans and future . And whom do you think that will fit to fix the country in a way that you believe it should be ? Because I heard you said that people like you brought this state . AND it is not wrong , but when you realise it is not the right decision that as normal people intend to divert the direction , so where is your direction lying ahead in the future ?
    I trust you will let us know without keeping yourself . And if you think my query might make you not comfortable , please ignore it .