Statement of International Catholic Organizations regarding the violent government crackdowns against dissenting citizens of Sri Lanka – 05th August 2022
We, the undersigned International Catholic Organisations, are extremely concerned about the current violent crackdowns by the Sri Lankan government against the citizens of Sri Lanka who are dissenting against corruption and violation of democracy. It has come to our attention that Ranil Wickremasinghe, who succeeded the ousted President Gotabaya Rajapakse over allegations of corruption and mismanagement of the economic crisis, has adopted repressive machinery against peaceful protesters who had been occupying Galle Face since April 2022. Ranil Wickremesinghe is also widely perceived to be a protector of the corrupt regime of Rajapakses and he himself has various allegations of mismanaging public resources.
His government has weaponized the process of law against peaceful protesters with several key activists of the protest movement taken under custody under public property and emergency regulations. Fr. Jeevantha Pieris, Venerable Koswatte Mahanama Thero, Ceylon Teachers’ Union General Secretary Joseph Stalin, Attorney at Law Nuwan Bopege, Journalist Tharindu Uduwaragedara and Inter-University Students’ Federation Convener Wasantha Mudalige are among the key activists targeted by the government.
Issuing a statement on 31st July 2022, 1640 Sri Lankan Catholic priests, sisters and brothers have already condemned several violations of human rights of the protesters including physical assault, obstruction to receiving legal assistance and raid of Fr. Jeevantha’s church in Rathnapura diocese.
It is distressing to hear that during the past few weeks several unidentified bodies have been washed into the coastal areas of Colombo city, the capital of Sri Lanka. Especially considering the human rights record of the current President who has allegations of administering torture chambers during the late 80s.
The people of Sri Lanka are going through the worst economic crisis since independence in 1948. Access to food, medicine, schools, livelihoods and basic utilities is severely restricted in the country with no credible financial assistance. It is in this context that people have taken to the streets to demand accountability and justice for the economic crisis. Protests are widespread with massive public participation and approval.
Therefore it is imperative that the government of Sri Lanka abides by the law and respects the human rights protected in the Constitution of the country, including the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression. Considering the gross violations of human rights by the current government headed by Ranil Wickremasinghe, it is the duty of the international community to stand with the people of Sri Lanka without isolating their demands for democracy and accountability.
Therefore as concerned international Catholic organisations,
- We request our national member movements and individual members to contact their local political representatives and national political/Human Rights bodies and bring their attention to these atrocities and express their dismay to the Sri Lankan embassies/government.
- We request the Holy See to convey the concerns to the Sri Lankan government through diplomatic channels.
- We request International lending agencies and bilateral development partners to impose conditionalities on human rights violations.
- We request the United Nations Human Rights Council to send a special envoy to investigate the situation and take necessary actions.
- International Movement of Catholic Students (IMCS/MIEC) Pax Romana
- International Young Christian Workers (IYCW/JOCI)
- International Catholic Movement for Intellectual and Cultural Affairs (ICMICA/MIIC) Pax Romana
- World Movement of Christian Workers (WMCW/MMTC)