HomeNewsCardinal Ranjith says human rights worsening in Sri Lanka

Cardinal Ranjith says human rights worsening in Sri Lanka

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith condemned Monday's attack on a high profile TV journalist and the "abduction" of a campaigner for justice

The leader of Sri Lanka’s Roman Catholic Church launched a scathing attack on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s government Tuesday over what he called increasing threats to human rights on the troubled island.

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith condemned Monday’s attack on a high profile TV journalist and the “abduction” of a campaigner for justice for the 279 people killed in the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings.

“Police have demonstrated uncivilized barbaric behavior in arresting a young man — Shehan Malaka — who is seeking justice for the Easter attack victims,” the Cardinal told reporters in Colombo.

He said police in civilian clothing and traveling in a white van grabbed Malaka from the streets on Monday and his life was saved only because he broadcast his abduction live on social media.

“If he didn’t have the presence of mind to use his phone for a live (broadcast), we wouldn’t ever get to know what happened to him,” the head of Sri Lanka’s minority Catholic community said. “He would have disappeared.”

“The police behavior is uncivilized and they acted like barbarians,” Caardinal Ranjith said.

White vans were commonly used by unidentified attackers to kidnap people during a previous Rajapaksa administration when thousands disappeared.

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Malaka was taken before a magistrate and released on bail Tuesday after a social media outcry. Police said they arrested him on a “hate speech” charge for allegedly bringing the government into disrepute.

Malaka had also spearheaded a Catholic Church protest campaign to fly black flags last year to condemn slow progress in police investigations into the Easter bombings, which targeted three churches and three deluxe hotels.

Home-grown Muslim fundamentalists were held responsible for the attack, but the authorities failed to identify the masterminds.

The cardinal said Sri Lanka’s overall human rights record was deteriorating, urging his followers to remain vigilant and resort to legal action.

Sri Lanka is on the agenda later this month at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva — which has repeatedly censured Colombo for failing to implement pledges to ensure accountability for rights abuses, particularly towards the end of the island’s ethnic war in 2009.

“Why would they behave like this at a time when they are preparing to defend their record in Geneva?” Ranjith asked.

“I think they don’t have any brains.”

Sri Lankan rights groups have also condemned Monday’s attack on the home of TV presenter Chamuditha Samarawickarama, who had criticized the powerful ruling Rajapaksa family and their allies in recent broadcasts.

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