November 21, 2010, 9:18 pm
The Centre for Human Rights (CHR) – Sri Lanka stresses that Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) should ensure a free and secure environment where people can give evidence without fearing future persecution in its up-coming sessions in Trincomalee and Mannar, a press release issued by the CHR said yesterday.
The release signed by the CHR’s Executive Director Rajith Keerthi Tennakoon said LLRC’s visit to Jaffna is commendable and the sessions they held are a step towards the healing process. Nevertheless certain incidents which occurred in the Kytes Island on November 14, reports of a systematic intimidation campaign to discourage residents from appearing before the LLRC and the threatening of a Jaffna based journalist, makes the Centre for Human Rights (CHR) wonder whether the LLRC took adequate action to ensure an environment where one can give evidence without fear of future persecution.
Overall there was inadequate media attention to the sessions in Jaffna. A look at the news papers show that there was minimal representation Colombo based main stream media, except one, and civil society organizations, except representatives from the US and Norwegian embassy. It is also a well known secret in Jaffna that local journalists do not cover stories in the islands fearing attacks by groups which had a militant past. Nevertheless it was this minimal outside presence that allowed the Uthayan and Yaal Thinakural news paper reporters to cover the sessions in Kytes. Otherwise Thina Murasu, the EPDP news paper would have been the only local news paper to cover the Kytes sessions.
The LLRC is to visit Trincomalee in early December to take submissions from the people affected by the war. Trincomalee is another area where political parties with a militant past still operate and the LLRC should take steps to ensure that there is a free and secure atmosphere where people can give evidence without fearing future retribution. It should also be alert whether certain groups attempt to prevent people from testifying before it. It is only through accomplishing this that the commission will be able to convince the residents of the North and the East that it is serious in accomplishing its mandate.
It’s very important that LLRC take necessary actions to prevent a repeat of what took place in Kytes and ensure a free and secure environment where people can give evidence without fearing future persecution in its up-coming sessions. In the same time, the Civil Society and the Colombo based media must provide adequate attention and coverage to the LLRC sessions held outside Colombo.