09/12/2013, 00.00
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Farewell to Sunila Abeysekara, a Sinhala woman who defended Sri Lanka's Tamils

by Melani Manel Perera
The well-known human rights activist died of cancer at the age of 61. For over 20 years, she worked for the emancipation of women in her country and in South Asia. During the civil war, she was a voice for all ethnic and religious groups, trying to find common ground for dialogue and peace.

Colombo (AsiaNews) - Hundreds of people attended the funeral of Sunila Abeysekera, a well-known activist for human rights in Sri Lanka. The ceremony took place yesterday at the Godigamuwa Public Cemetery in Maharagama, near Colombo. She passed away on Monday at the age of 61 at a private clinic in the capital, after a long battle with cancer.

Born in Colombo in 1952, Abeysekara worked for more than 20 years defending women and ordinary people in Sri Lanka and South Asia.

An ethnic Sinhalese, she was very active during the long years of the country's civil war, upholding the rights of every Sri Lankan, be they Tamil, Sinhalese, Buddhists, Muslims and Christians.

For more than a decade, she cooperated with Human Rights Work.

Nimalka Fernando, a human rights activist, spoke to AsiaNews about her friend Abeysekera. "With her death, we lost not only an activist, but also a good person who fought for people's rights from a young age. We went to school together. She was the bravest person I have ever known."

According to Fr S.J. Emmanuel, president of the Global Tamil Forum, "Sunila Abeysekara was a unique voice in Sri Lanka. She fought against repression in all its forms and built an international network of solidarity around issues such as poverty, the environment, labour and women rights and empowerment."


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