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  • » 02/21/2007, 00.00


    Extremist minister in favour of extra-judicial means to “restore order”

    Melani Manel Perera

    Civil society groups slams the newly-appointed environment and natural resources minister, who suggested the possible use of illegal means against those who bring chaos to the country, namely Tamil rebels, journalists, peace and human rights activists.

    Colombo (AsiaNews) – Patali Champika Ranawaka, an ultra-nationalist Sinhalese politician appointed environment and natural resources minister just two weeks ago, has already stirred controversy. In a statement on how to deal with “dissidents”, whether Tamil rebels or peace activists, he said that extra-judicial means should be available. The condemnation from civil society groups was swift and unanimous.

    Organisations representing journalists and defending press freedom as well as groups from the country’s Muslim and Tamil communities signed a joint statement in which they called for a retraction and highlighted the many anti-democratic views the minister expressed in the past.

    Equally worrisome is the fact that Mr Ranawaka is a close collaborator of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse.

    The controversy began last Sunday when Ranawaka told Ravaya, a local newspaper, that if existing laws were not adequate to re-establish order in the country, “we shall use other means”.

    Since last summer the ugly head of civil war has reared its head again in the north and the east of the country as army and Tamil Tigers began again to battle it out. Hundreds of people have died as a result and the peace process has stalled in all but name.

    In their press release press and community groups accuse the minister of supporting the extremist National Movement against Terrorism (NMAT) which is waging a campaign against supporters of the Tamil cause, including peace activists and defenders of freedom of speech.

    The minister himself has already referred to latter as terrorists in the past.

    For the signatories to the press release, his remarks are “offensive and irresponsible for a member of the government.”

    Ranawaka belongs to the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU), a party led by Buddhist monks that is opposed to power sharing with the Tamil minority and to Norway’s mediation in the peace process.

    In the past the party expressed anti-Semitic views comparing Tamils to the Jews and formulating theories about ‘Aryan-Sinhalese’ supremacy.

    The group that signed the joint statement against the minister includes the Free Media Movement, the Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association, the Federation of Media Employees Trade Union, the Sri Lanka Muslim Media Forum and the Sri Lanka Tamil Journalists Alliance.

    They call on the international community and the Sri Lankan government to remain vigilant in a context of heightened threats against democracy and human rights in the country.

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    See also

    02/02/2007 SRI LANKA
    Theoretician of ‘Sinhalese supremacy’ becomes minister
    Patali Champika Ranawaka belongs to the ultra-nationalist monk’s party, which is opposed to the peace process with the rebels and has sponsored a dangerous anti-conversion law.

    11/04/2006 SRI LANKA
    Anti-conversion bill to become law soon
    Members of committee tasked with reviewing bill are appointed. If they approve, the bill will only require third and final reading. Christians are concerned and warn: If the vote is not secret, it will be hard for anyone to vote against the bill.

    30/01/2009 SRI LANKA
    Anti-conversion bill: minorities fear restrictions on religious freedom
    Tabled in January by a party led by Buddhist monks, the draft law could be adopted before the end of next month. Its purpose is to stop people from changing religion under pressure or in exchange of economic advantages. A similar bill had been presented in 2004 but failed after the Supreme Court found it unconstitutional. Protestant Churches have already mobilised against the bill; Catholics are concerned about it and waiting for their bishops to take a stand.

    29/07/2005 SRI LANKA
    Archbishop of Colombo tells government to respect religious freedom
    Archbishop Gomis makes his appeal as two "dangerous" anti-conversion bills make their way through parliament. The recent attack against a local Catholic church was the work of outside fundamentalists who act without reason but to destroy. "The Catholic community is not afraid; fundamentalists are a minority".

    15/01/2010 SRI LANKA
    Presidential elections: the land issue and refugees
    About a thousand delegates from minority groups meet to discuss what urgent priorities to submit to candidates running for office in the upcoming presidential election. Resettling tens of thousands of war refugees and tsunami survivors still homeless and jobless after so many years is one of the most urgent issues that need to be addressed.

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