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Home » Countries » Sri Lanka » Sri Lankan regime lurches to the extreme right as abduction and repression spread to the south!

Sri Lankan regime lurches to the extreme right as abduction and repression spread to the south!

What is German Foreign Minister Dr. Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s position?

On the 5th of February, three Sinhalese, known in anti-war and left circles in Sri Lanka were abducted. Mohammed Lalith Senevirathne, Sisira Priyankara, and Nihal Serasinghe were abducted on the same day at different places in what appeared to be a planned operation with a clear political motivation. Based on past practise, as there was a real fear that their lives were in peril, alarm was raised with immediate international action and a demonstration in Colombo the 6th. We want to thank all those who responded to our urgent action as part of the international campaign to protect their lives.

During the first 24 hours the government’s security forces denied that the abductions had taken place. However, soon after the international campaign had started the government acknowledged that the persons were under the custody army intelligence. Then, in a dramatic development on the 7th, the government’ security services made a press conference showing video clips of ‘confessions’ by the three people – alleging that they were engaged in violent actions. This press conference was the start of an aggressive propaganda campaign to strike fear to journalists, trade unionists and others who had responded immediately to the arrests as well as to confuse and discourage those outside the country who had taken a stand.

But it was more than that. This fear campaign has to be looked at in the context of the opposition that has been mounting during the last year against the war drive and the harsh repression conducted by the government. The current phase of repression began last year with a killing of a Tamil journalist in the Eastern Province that was followed by a series of abductions. These repressive measures were furthered by prohibition of the Worker’s May Day, public meetings in the Western Province and strikes of the workers under the pretext of national security. Destruction of the boats and the arrests of Sinhala fishermen in the coastal area near to Colombo recently caused outrage within the fishing community in Negombo. Repression of the media and the threat to journalists, which had been commonplace in the Tamil North and East, has reached the Sinhala newspaper Mawbima (motherland) with the abduction and detention without trial of Parameswari. All these were accompanied by steady escalation of the government’s propaganda campaign to construct a public opinion in by implicating journalists who stand against war and workers and fishermen who agitate for their economic and democratic rights as having a hidden agenda with the Tigers. Even the president’s expulsion of the three cabinet ministers (one of them has been reinstated) was done amidst accusations that they are working with the Tamil Tigers. The above ‘confessions’ cannot be separated from this background.

Germany and the international legitimation of the Sri Lankan government

The fact is that the Sri Lanka’s highly militarised regime is rapidly moving to the extreme-right is given legitimacy by international powers. The timing of the arrests above coincided with a visit to Germany by the new foreign minister of Sri Lanka Mr. Rohitha Bogollagama. The Sri Lankan government’s newspaper ‘Daily News’ of Feb 6th stated that Germany will firmly support Sri Lankan policy and quotes Minister Bogollagama saying that ‘his German counterpart assured that there won't be any breakdown in bilateral relations or development aid to Sri Lanka' and goes on to say that he was able ‘to convey a clear picture as to what was going on in the peace front without leaving room for distortion of facts by interested parties.’ This apparent legitimisation given by the Germany – the current holder of the EU presidency – is seen as providing confidence for the Sri Lankan government to move ahead its repression of voices of dissent in the Sinhala media field - eliminating the space ‘for distortion of facts by interested parties’. Dr. Frank-Walter Steinmeier is portrayed in Sri Lanka as a hard line politician willing to stand firmly with the Sri Lankan government’s policy in conducting the war, putting aside concerns of human rights and democratic freedoms which had been raised earlier by Germany’s development minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul.

We urge you to Dr. Frank-Walter Steinmeier or his office and question him on where he stands on this issue. Urge him to contact his counterpart in Sri Lanka and ensure that democratic freedoms are ensured for both Tamils and for the Sinhalese.

German Foreign Ministry
Phone: 00 49 30-5000-2000
Fax: 0049 30-5000-3402
Foreign Ministry Online contact page

Please email a copy of your correspondence to imrv@humanrights.de