Exposing the bias of Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka not taking up the killing of MP Amarakeerthi Athukorala?
We expect entities that claim they are “independent” and “impartial” to uphold what they claim to be. Yet, the proof is in the pudding and the HRCSL press releases are a good way to question why the HRCSL chooses not to take action or at least make a statement on the cold blooded murder of an elected member of Parliament. On 27th June 2023 riots hit France and protestors attacked the home of the Mayor of L’Hay-Les-Roses injuring his wife & child. The response by the French Senate President Gerard Larcher was “to attack the life of an elected representative and that of his family is to attack the nation”. MP Amarakeerthi Athukorala was also an elected representative. He was not attacked. He was cold-bloodedly murdered. While the French regarded the attack on a Mayor as an ‘attack to the Nation”, the HRCSL has not even seen fit to mention his name in any of their press releases or investigate his murder. This is not a sign of an impartial & independent entity.
Press releases by HRCSL taken from their website https://www.hrcsl.lk/news/articles/
- 8 January 2022 – HRCSL writes to Police about PTA Detainees
- 8-10 January 2022 – Briefing to the Diplomats of HRCSL new roadmap
- 6 March 2022 – The inauguration of a District Office of HRCSL in the Nuwara Eliya District
- 14 March 2022 – HRCSL calls application for Internships (Nuwara Eliya District Office)
- 23 March 2022 – Janatha Estate Development Boad Undertakes to Pay All Arrears of EPF/ ETF/ Gratuity to 12000 estate workers of JEDB, Sri Lanka State Plantation Corp, Elkaduwa Plantations.
- 29 March 2022 – HRCSL commemorates International Women’s Day
- 18 April 2022 – HRCSL Sinhala Press release on Sugar scam & implementing recommendations by Auditor General
- 20 April 2022 – HRCL Sinhala Press release calling upon the GoSL to address essential needs of the people
- MAY 2022 – The HRCSL has not included any press release for MAY inspite of 9 May killing of MP Amarakeerthi Athukorala. Did HRCSL officials even visit the site where the MP was killed & dead body dragged around?
- 1 June 2022 – HRCSL hand over recommendations to President Gotabaya on proposed HRCSL Act
- 26 June 2022 – Chairperson HRCSL Justice (Rtd) Rohini Marasinghe issues message on International Day in Support of Victims of Torture (just days earlier MP Athukorale was tortured to death)
- 27 June 2022 – HRCSL starts independent inquiry on police shooting incident in Rambukkana on 19 April 2022 resulting in one death. HRCSL officials visited site. Panel appointed – Former Retired High Court Judge K.H Sumathipala, Former Retired High Court Judge. Sudath N. Gopallawa, Former Retired Government Analyst Dr. W.D.S Gunathilake, Senior Attorney–At–Law Mr. Prasantha Lal De Alwis PC, Senior Attorney–At–Law Mr. Amal Randeniya, Consultant Judicial Medical Officer Dr. Channa Perera, Engineer Mr. S. Suriyaarachchi(University of Moratuwa), and Technical Officer Mr. A.M.S Nilan(University of Moratuwa).
- 27 June 2022 – HRCSL starts independent inquiry on alleged violations of rule of law on 9th & 10thMay 2022. As per the HRCSL press release “group of people attacked two peaceful protests in front of Temple Trees & Galle Face” – later violence spread all over the country & properties of politicians & others were targeted & set on fire. The same day a group of prisoners were assaulted by an unidentified group. HRCSL appoints Special Rapporteur to investigate & report to the HRCSL as to whether the law enforcement authorities provide adequate protection to the people, the damaged houses ( it was the protestors that set fire to the houses) There is no mention of the killing of MP Amarakeerthi Athukorala.
- 27 June 2022 – HRCSL prepare guidelines for Police & Armed Forces for crowd control (do these guidelines conflict with the internal SOPs within the Police & Armed Forces? – is this why they did not take action?) HRCSL appointed panel of experts
- Palitha Fernando – PC , former Attorney General
- K. Illangakoon – former Inspector General of Police
- Professor Wasantha Seneviratne, Chair Professor – Department of Public & International Law, University of Colombo
- Madawa Tennakoon, Deputy Solicitor General
- Ramani Muttetuwegama, Attorney-at-Law
- Chandrika Karunarathne, Attorney-at-Law
- Nihal Chandrasiri, Actg. Director – Monitoring & Evaluation, HRCSL
- Kapilan Villavarajan, Legal Officer, HRCSL
- 30 June 2022 – HRCSL has appointed a Committee of Investigators to the unlawful incident of ‘severe magnitude’ on 9th & 10th May 2022. The inquiry was conducted by Mr. Sanjeewa Weerawickrama, Attorney -at- Law, Miss. lmasha Senadeera, Attorney-at-Law and Dr. Dilshani Bogollagama. No prisoners had been used in the attacks on 9th May 2022.
- 5 July 2022 – HRCSL invites Secretary of Defense, Gen. Kamal Gunaratne to discuss incident of assault by an army officer on a civilian at a fuel station in Kurunegala.
- 8 July 2022 – HRCSL issues recommendations on police shooting incident in Rambukkana on 19thApril 2022 after interim report by committee of experts.(It is Aug 2023 – over a year but the HRCSL has not issued any recommendations on the gruesome & cold blooded murder of an elected Member of Parliament on 9 May 2022)
- 11 July 2022 – HRCSL commenced investigation & inquiry into assault on News First Journalist of MTV on 9th July 2022. HRCSL officials even visited the journalist in hospital.
- 15 July 2022 – HRCSL issues press release calling all those ‘who have been agitating so far to fall in line with the constitutional process and maintain law & order”.
- 22 July 2022 – HRCSL issue press release condemning “the brutal & despicable attack on the peaceful protestors at Galle Face vicinity by the Military” (unfortunately, no such press release was issued by the HRCSL when an elected member of parliament was brutally killed in a despicable attack)
- 22 July 2022 – HRCSL issue press release on the declaration of emergency calling to “withdraw the inappropriate declaration of emergency immediately”
- 26 July 2022 – HRCSL issue press release on whether law enforcement authorities provided adequate protection to uphold rule of law to protect the fundamental rights of the people on 9 May 2022 (what about the fundamental right of MP Amarakeerthi Athukorala who was killed by so called “peaceful protestors”)
- 2 August 2022 – HRCSL issue press release on assault on News First Journalist of SIRASA news channel on 9 July 2022 (no such press release is issued by HRCSL on MP Amarakeerthi Athukorala who was killed on 9 May 2022)
- 23 August 2022 – HRCSL writes to the Police Commission expressing “deep concern” on the Prevention of Terrorism Act by the Police.
- 23 August 2022 – HRCSL statement on 9th & 10th May 2022 incidents.
There was a window of hope that the HRCSL would not be as biased as it is oft accused of but that came to naught with the press release on 23 August 2022 following the appointment of a Special Rapporteur on the incidents that took place on 9th & 10th May 2022 to answer the question if law enforcement authorities took adequate measures to uphold rule of law & protect fundamental rights of the “peaceful protestors” protesting opposite Temple Trees & Galle Face Green. The Inquiry team had called various levels within the police, senior officers of state intelligence & looked at CCTV footage & documentary evidence. The report claims that the reason for the clash was the failure of officers on the ground to take decisions & why no steel barriers were placed to prevent access along Galle Road to Presidential Secretariat. The Committee also advised to examine telephone conversations between IGP and subordinates and IGP & Secretary Defense from 1150 to 1p.m. on 9th May 2022. HRCSL recommended that the President appoint a committee to identify “perpetrators” within law enforcement who breached the law & adequately compensate the victims who suffered injured. HRCSL also recommended to the President to direct the said committee to investigate the entire system of law enforcement and identify the responsibility & take necessary measures to deal with such officers punitively.
The entire focus is only on the welfare of protestors – not a line has been written on the manner an elected member of Parliament was brutally killed by protestors. Not a line in any of the press releases covered the colossal damage done by peaceful protestors to State property that included theft, damage, destruction and misuse/abuse.
Entities must press the HRCSL to give justice to the family of the slain MP just as HRCSL calls for punitive action against law enforcement officers for not doing their duty.
The HRCSL must realize that people are watching. Any entity claiming to be impartial and unbiased must prove so not only in words but in action as well.
Shenali D Waduge