Photo courtesy Yaal Ruvi

As members of the academic community in Sri Lanka, we are appalled by the increasing belligerence with which certain individuals appear to be making statements directed at public officials and academics of the country.

It has been many months now since a certain group of individuals, led by ex-military personnel, had proclaimed before the media that individuals who are supportive of a new Constitution ought to be considered as ‘traitors’ acting against the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka. Such individuals, it was further stated, ought to be held accountable for their ‘traitorous’ acts in a court of law and punished with death and that action will be taken against them at a future date when a new political leadership assumes power.

Such statements, which have been given wide publicity in the media, have been made with impunity especially over the past few months. Video recordings of such statements are also widely available on the internet.

The most recent articulation of this dangerous and reprehensible trend comes in the form of a news report published in the Mawbima newspaper of 29 June 2018, whereby the Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) and senior academic Dr. Deepika Udagama, has been castigated as an individual who, together with certain NGOs, acts as a spokesperson for the LTTE, determined to undermine the Sri Lankan military. Dr. Udagama has also been accused of preventing the Sri Lankan military personnel from joining the Peacekeeping Forces of the United Nations (UN). We note that the HRCSL has issued a response against this baseless accusation that appeared earlier in an English-language newspaper.

Statements such as the above are not only threats directed at the life and liberty of the Chairperson of the HRCSL. They amount to threats levelled at all public officials, academics and citizens of this country who subscribe to political opinions different to those who utter such statements. These statements, which are of a hateful and defamatory character, amount to threats that endanger human life and personal safety and are thus punishable under the law. Furthermore, it needs to be stated albeit reluctantly, that this criminal and fascist mentality, which seeks to threaten individuals with death for holding different political opinions, is unfortunately gaining traction within segments of our society.

Given the extreme and pernicious nature of these statements, we urge the Government to take immediate action to stop individuals and groups from making such hateful statements which threaten the life of public officials, academics and fellow citizens of Sri Lanka. It is also incumbent upon the Speaker and the Constitutional Council to step in to protect public officials such as the Chairperson of the HRCSL who are appointed to Commissions under their aegis. We also urge media institutions in the country to act ethically and responsibly and desist from publishing such inflammatory statements which threaten the life and limb of individuals, at least in future.

As members of the academic community, we have come together to condemn these hateful statements, despite our different political positions, since we believe that the ability to disagree without resorting to violence, intimidation and demagoguery should be a basic principle in a democratic and civilized society.

Statement has been endorsed by the following:

  1. Prof Sarath B.S Abayakoon, University of Peradeniya
  2. Emeritus Professor Jayadeva Uyangoda, University of Colombo
  3. Prof O.G Dayaratne-Banda, University of Peradeniya
  4. Prof Sumathy Sivamohan, University of Peradeniya
  5. Dr Ramya Kumar, University of Jaffna
  6. Dr Sudesh Mantileke, University of Peradeniya
  7. Prof Gamini Keerawella, University of Peradeniya
  8. Dr Samanmala Dorabawila, University of Peradeniya
  9. Dr Harshana Rambukwella, Open University of Sri Lanka
  10. Prof A. Navaratne-Bandara, University of Peradeniya (Retd.)
  11. Chetana Karunatilaka, University of Peradeniya
  12. Dr R Ramesh, University of Peradeniya
  13. Prof Upul Abeyratne, University of Peradeniya
  14. Dr Kalana Senaratne, University of Peradeniya
  15. Prof Carmen Wickramagamage, University of Peradeniya
  16. Emeritus Professor Kamala Liyanage, University of Peradeniya
  17. Dr Ranga Kalugampitiya, University of Peradeniya
  18. Emeritus Prof Savitri Goonesekere, University of Colombo
  19. Dr Shyamani Hettiarachchi, University of Kelaniya
  20. Dr Dinesha Samararatne, University of Colombo
  21. Prof Theodore Fernando, Open University of Sri Lanka
  22. Dr Athula Samarakoon, Open University of Sri Lanka
  23. Dr G. Bandarage, Open University of Sri Lanka
  24. Dileepa Witharana, Open University of Sri Lanka
  25. Dr Shavindra Dias, University of Peradeniya
  26. Dr Harini Amarasuriya, Open University of Sri Lanka
  27. Dr Anil Jayantha Fernando, University of Sri Jayawardenapura
  28. Prof K.K.I.U Aruna Kumara, University of Ruhuna
  29. Prof Prabhath Jayasinghe, University of Colombo
  30. Mahendran Thiruvarangan, University of Peradeniya
  31. S. Jeyasankar, Eastern University
  32. G.A Karunatilaka, University of Kelaniya
  33. Dr Kaushalya Perera, University of Colombo
  34. Prof Dileni Gunawardene, University of Peradeniya
  35. Dr Mahim Mendis, Open University of Sri Lanka
  36. Dr Nirmal Ranjith Dewasiri, University of Colombo
  37. Dr Ruvan Weerasinghe, University of Colombo
  38. Dr Ranil Abayasekera, University of Peradeniya
  39. Dr Kumari Jayawardene, University of Colombo (Retd.)
  40. Dr Ramila Usuf, University of Peradeniya
  41. Dr Nalini Hennayake, University of Peradeniya
  42. Prof Priyan Dias, University of Moratuwa
  43. Emeritus Professor P. Wickramagamage, University of Peradeniya
  44. Dr Kanchuka Dharmasiri, University of Peradeniya
  45. Dr A. Rameez, Southeastern University
  46. Dr S.N. Morais, Open University of Sri Lanka
  47. Prof Camena Gunaratne, Open University of Sri Lanka
  48. Prof Charmalie Abayasekera, University of Peradeniya
  49. Dr Chandana Aluthge, University of Colombo
  50. Prof Rohan Fernando, Open University of Sri Lanka
  51. Dr Farzana Haniffa, University of Colombo
  52. Prof Premakumara de Silva, University of Colombo
  53. Dr Pavithra Kailasapathy, University of Colombo
  54. Madhubashini Dissanayake Ratnayake, University of Sri Jayawardenapura