05/27/2022, 17.15
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Priest protesting against Rajapaksa in Colombo has passport cancelled

by Melani Manel Perera

Father Jeevantha Peiris was sanctioned along with other activists for filing a complaint in connection with violence by pro-government supporters on 9 May at the protest camp set up near the Presidential Secretariat. The government wants “to make the victims more vulnerable,” the priest told AsiaNews, but “the struggle cannot be stopped”.

Colombo (Asia News) – A Sri Lankan court has imposed a travel ban on a Catholic priest for his participation in the protests against President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

On Tuesday, together with other activists, Fr Amila Jeevantha Peiris has his passport cancelled.

Known in Colombo for his commitment to human rights, he joined protesters who set up the "GotaGoGama" village, a protest camp located not far from the Presidential Secretariat building, demanding President Gotabaya Rajapaksa's resignation due to the worsening of the country's economic situation.

“The government is sending another message that they want to make the victims more vulnerable,” Fr Peiris explained. “But, whatever they say, whatever they try to do to us, we say that the struggle cannot be stopped by such intimidation."

Protests, the clergyman notes, will end only when the president but also the new prime minister Ranil Wickramasinghe resign.

The court order was reportedly issued to allow further investigation into a complaint filed by Fr. Pieris and others about attacks by pro-government supporters on peaceful protesters on 9 May.

“At a time when there are a number of burning issues in the country that need to be addressed urgently”, the authorities choose “to impose a travel ban on a group, including Father Jeewantha Peiris,” said Bishop Asiri Perera, former president of the Methodist Church of Sri Lanka, speaking to AsiaNews.

"I have seen Father Jeevantha unite with the various youth on the battlefield and engage in very deep dialogue, directing the youth community to move on to peaceful new paths,” the bishop explained. “We should not only give them more strength but also prevent further tragedies in Sri Lanka.”

Sister Deepa Fernando, a human rights activist who heads the Holy Family Convent, “strongly condemn[ed] the Rajapaksa regime's deliberate attack on unarmed peaceful protestors, like Father Jeevantha Pieris and the team.”

Passports were cancelled after “Father Jeevantha and the young group filed a complaint against the attackers,” she explained. He promoted “interreligious dialogue and participated in a variety of cultural and religious activities.  So, is the travel ban a gift for that good work”?

“The sad thing is that the judiciary and politics have come together, but the judiciary should stand for the victims,” said Fr Marimuttu Sathivel, an Anglican priest. Still, “We shall stand with Father Jeevantha and the team who are fighting at the GotagoGama”.

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