The following statement was released by CHRD on July 15, 2022 concerning the statement made by the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL)on transport of prisoners on May 9, 2022.
In an outrageous and unprecedented move the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka has chosen to give wide publicity to one of its statements published as a paid advertisement in the weekend news media (Sunday Times 10.07.2022) concerning the findings of a purported inquiry into the incident that occurred on 9th May 2022. The subject matter of the inquiry was the allegation made by the Committee for Protecting the Rights of Prisoners (CPRP) that on 9th May 2022 several prison inmates were being transported to various locations to join hands with pro-government politicians and thugs to disrupt the peaceful protest on the Galle Face Green by assaulting and causing harm to the protestors. Although Prison authorities denied the allegation, no official inquiry was conducted by the Prison Department to date.
However, the HRCSL had taken upon themselves the task of inquiry and had appointed a Committee comprising three professionals whose very names indicate close affinity to the then regime. What has not been disclosed is the name of the special rapporteur, a President’s Counsel who is a staunch ally of the earlier regime who conducted the inquiry and reigned midway. The statement was given wide publicity in the press at that time and now again the statement is published as a paid advertisement which is sponsored by none other than Avant Garde Manpower Recruiting (Pvt) Ltd., a business outfit that is very close to the now dismantled Rajapakse regime. Its functionaries had the reputation of being involved in clandestine financial and corrupt operations in the past under the patronage of the regime. The statement does not verify whether it is lawful for prisoners to be permitted to work for private contractors based on a doubtful Cabinet approval of an agreement with Avant Garde Manpower Recruiting (Pvt) Limited. The prisoners are imprisoned on the orders of the courts of law and whether the alleged agreement was made known to the Judiciary is a moot point. Further, this type of engagement if permitted, might lead to forced labor of prisoners for the benefit of profit-making companies.
It is very curious as to why the HRCSL has lent itself to be manipulated by vested interests and ill-reputed organizations targeting a civil society organization and its head Mr. Seneka Perera, an attorney-at-law at a personal level. Mr. Seneka Perera is a human rights activist and lawyer who had exposed the prison massacre of 27 inmates in the Welikada prison on 9th November 2012 by filing a writ application in the Court of Appeal resulting in a Trial-at-Bar which convicted and sentenced an Accused to death penalty.
It is therefore, not surprising that vested interests have been operating solidly behind the flawed CoI (sic) findings and are on a witch-hunt against Mr. Senaka Perera. The HRCSL has thrown caution to the winds by associating with discredited commercial entities having questionable credentials. Moreover, the HRCSL had clearly exceeded its mandate by its queer demand calling for serious action to be taken against Mr. Seneka Perera.
The Centre for Human Rights and Development (CHRD) therefore, calls upon the HRCSL that the statement issued on 30th June 2022 be withdrawn forthwith, tender an unqualified apology to CRPC and its Convenor Mr. Seneka Perera, Attorney-at-law and cause a transparent and impartial inquiry to be conducted into the incidents of 9th May 2022 according to its mandate.
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