Condemning a recent attack on parliamentarians in Sri Lanka, key Opposition figure Karu Jayasuriya said it only lent credence to allegations raised at last month’s U.N. Human Rights Council session that violation of human rights is a regular feature in Sri Lanka.
On Thursday, a five-member delegation of the United National Party (UNP) — Sri Lanka’s main Opposition — were on a fact-finding mission at Mattala and Hambantota, considered hubs of economic development in southern Sri Lanka where a massive airport and harbour are coming up.
Just as the MPs exited the project sites, they were attacked by a group of men. They were pelted with eggs, and their vehicles damaged.
Condemning the incident on Friday, which the UNP believes is politically motivated, Mr. Jayasuriya said in a statement, “Mark the day. Thursday, April 17, 2014 would go down in Sri Lankan history as a black day.”
Mr. Jayasuriya, a senior leader who chairs the UNP’s Leadership Council, alleged that “the team of parliamentarians was manhandled by the thugs of the regime,” and pointed to the role of Hambantota Mayor Eraj Ravindra Fernando, who reportedly intimidated them with a gun. Mr. Fernando, according to local media reports, has completely denied the charge, although giving apparently conflicting statements on having used only a “toy gun” in some reports.
Mr. Jayasuriya said: “Not only her [Sri Lanka’s] citizens, but even the rights of lawfully elected parliamentarians are in danger of being extinct.
Speaking to The Hindu on Saturday, UNP parliamentarian Eran Wickramaratne — who was part of the delegation — said in the absence of a Right to Information Act in Sri Lanka, parliamentarians like him had an additional responsibility to ferret out facts and share details with the public. Observing that the attack was clearly an attempt to stifle their efforts, he said: “The police were present at these venues when we were attacked, but did not intervene. We have no confidence in them.”
Asked why the police did not intervene, police spokesperson Ajith Rohana told The Hindu that disciplinary action was being taken on the nearly 10 police personnel present there for their “inaction.” “We are investigating,” he said.