Solidarity with journalists in Sri Lanka, defend democratic rights! Protest abduction of socialists!

UPDATE: The two comrades of the Frontline Socialist Party, Premakumar Gunarathnam and Dimuthu Attygale, have both been released, on late April 9/early April 10. Gunarathnam has been deported to Australia (he is an Australian citizen). Without doubt it was the high level of international attention and the unprecedented solidarity across the political divide in Sri Lanka that secured their lives and liberty.

April 5, 2012 -- Democratic freedoms are increasingly under attack in Sri Lanka. In a climate of intense chauvinism, critics of the government and its increasingly authoritarian and repressive policies are more and more threatened. Even journalists who have already been forced into exile are targets of threats and smear campaigns. Government members have personally called for violence against media personnel that have raised criticism of the Sri Lankan government or that have drawn attention to violations of Human Rights in the country.

Minister Mervyn Silva, in a public rally, threatened to "break the limbs" of government critics Sunanda Deshapriya, Nimalka Fernando and Pakiasothy Saravanamuttu. He also claimed responsibility for an attack on the former president of the Sri Lanka Working Journalist Association (SLWJA), exiled journalist Poddala Jayantha, who was abducted and had both legs broken by his abductors. On a later occasion, Silva suggested that "traitors should be executed".

We are seeing a campaign that seeks to silence critical voices, especially in the aftermath of the United Nations Human Rights Council Resolution on Sri Lanka that urged the government to prosecute those responsible for war crimes during the civil war between its armed forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The government and its supporters reacted to this call with extreme hostility and new outbursts of anti-Tamil chauvinism. Large scale Human Rights violations during the war and its aftermath, violations that cost the lives of countless Tamils, have gone unpunished, creating a climate of impunity.

One of the targets of the smear campaign is our comrade Gnanasiri Koththigoda, current president of the SLWJA and a leading member of the Nava Sama Samaja Party (NSSP). Another comrade of ours, Dharmasiri Lankapeli of the Federation of Media Employees Trade Unions, has also come under attack. 

The government of Sri Lanka is aided in this campaign by its state media. The government controlled television Independent Television Network ITN has repeatedly called Koththigoda a "traitor". It has labeled journalists and civil society representatives as terrorists for participating in the Human Rights Council session in Geneva. Similarly, the state-owned  Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Limited, better known as "Lake House", has accused Lankapeli and other government critics of support for terrorism and collaboration with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)

The potential of attacks like these, in a context were government members openly boast about assaulting critics and Human Rights violations go unpunished, should not be underestimated. Harassing, harming or even killing of journalists has gone unpunished in Sri Lanka, with police often refusing to look into the matter. Our comrades have been singled out for these attacks because of their principled stance for democratic rights and freedoms. An attack on them is an attack on these rights and freedoms. 

The involvement of state-led media in the attacks on journalists and democratic activists, the long history of violence and intimidation of journalist and government critics as well as the role of prominent members of the government show clearly that this a coordinated, state-led campaign. The government of Sri Lanka is aiming to curtail democracy. It is up to democrats and progressives in Sri Lanka, South Asia and worldwide to stand up for democratic rights. We are happy to see that progressive forces like Peoples' SAARC have already come to the defense of the fundamental principles of democracy in Sri Lanka.

We declare our solidarity with Koththigoda, Lankapeli and all other media personnel and democratic activists under attack. We support them in their struggle for a just and democratic Sri Lanka.

April 5, 2012


Labour Party Pakistan

Communist Party of Bangladesh (M-L) (CPB-ML)

Japan Revolutionary Communist League (JRCL)

National Council of Internationalist Workers (NCIW), Japan

People’s Liberation Party Indonesia

Socialist Alliance, Australia

Socialist Alternative, Australia

John Percy, national secretary, Revolutionary Socialist Party, Australia

Radical Socialist, India

Revolutionary Workers Party Mindanao, Philippines

Partido Ng Manggagawa, Philippines

Partido Lakas ng Masa, Philippines

Socialist Aotearoa, New Zealand

Please contact if you would like to endorse this statement.

For the latest signatories, please click HERE.

Urgent appeal for abducted socialists

By Nava Sama Samaaja Party (NSSP, New Socialist Party, Sri Lanka)

April 7, 2012 -- Two leaders of the Frontline Socialist Party Kumar Gunarathnam and Dimuthu Attygalle (women's and international affairs secretary) were separately abducted in the early hours of Saturday April 7, 2012, from Kiribathgoda and Godagama respectively (suburbs of Colombo).

They are prominent representatives of a new left party that has broken away from the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) in opposition to coalition politics and in solidarity with the Tamil people's struggle for justice and equality.

Kumar Gunarathnam, who is of Tamil origin, was a longstanding leader of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna, who has been in hiding from the authorities since the split with the JVP. Dimuthu Attygalle is also a former member of the JVP politburo and leader of its women’s front and former elected member of an urban council.

The timing of their abduction is directly related to the forthcoming inaugural conference of the Frontline Socialist Party on April 9, 2012. It is a clear attempt to intimidate and discourage the members and sympathisers of this new socialist party. This heinous act follows the disappearance of two Tamil-origin activists of the party, Lalith and Kugan, in Jaffna in December 2011 whose whereabouts and safety is still unknown.

The Nava Sama Samaja Party demands the immediate release of the comrades of the Frontline Socialist Party; and for all acts of intimidation and harassment of their political activities to end forthwith. We call upon Left parties across the world to organise solidarity actions in front of Sri Lankan embassies and missions and to send messages of protest to the Sri Lankan authorities.

Write to: Hon President of Sri Lanka Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksha

Defence Secretary Mr.Gotabhaya Rajapakse