09/10/2009, 00.00
SRI LANKA

Civil society in Sri Lanka: freedom for Tamil refugees and true democracy

Melani Manel Perera
Demonstration in Colombo of the newborn People's Movement for Freedom and Democracy. The movement brings together Christian leaders of the island, human rights activist and NGO workers. They are demanding the release of refugees, more power to local governments and an economic policy that protects workers.

Colombo (AsiaNews) - Leaders of Christian Churches in Sri Lanka, human rights activists and NGO workers on the island came together, Wednesday 9, opposite the railway station in Colombo for a demonstration of the newborn People's Movement for Freedom and Democracy .

In 300 they demonstrated to ask the Government to release the Tamil refugees detained in camps, for the implementation of 13th Amendment of the constitution to devolve more powers to local governments, higher wages and lower cost of living and the defence of press freedom in the country. Among the demonstrators present were Tamil and Sinhalese who held banners and placards written in their own language and photos of relatives and friends imprisoned in refugee camps (see photo).

Fr. Yohan Devananda, an Anglican clergyman of Nawal one of the chief organisers of the new movement, tells AsiaNews: "It's time to break the silence because the situation has become shameful. On the surface it seems more bearable, but actually we are moving towards a dictatorial approach”.

Explaining the intentions of  the new group Reverend Devananda announces "other initiatives in other districts, until we get answers to our questions”.  The same commitment was reiterated by Fr. Sarath Iddamalgoda at the end of the event. The Catholic priest, coordinator of the Christian Solidarity Movement, reminded participants: "This is just the beginning. We must continue until the needs of the people triumph”.

The People's Movement for Freedom and Democracy includes; the World Peace and Solidarity Movement, the Movement of National Land & Agriculture Research (MONLAR), some left-wing social movements and various figures from civil society.

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