Put aside personal and political differences
Open Letter to the President, the Prime Minister, members of the Cabinet and Members of Parliament regarding the situation in Sri Lanka Your Excellencies,
We, the undersigned women and men, are members of civil society and are drawn from all religious and ethnic communities. Our common goal has been to advance the political, social and economic and cultural rights of the people by promoting peace, harmony and social justice for all. We have engaged constructively with all governments in the past and will continue to do so in this instance.
We are appalled by the carnage in Sri Lanka. Our sympathies are with the victims and their families and with our beloved country.
We urge the government to expeditiously establish the truth and find the perpetrators and their allies, within the framework of human rights standards.
We draw the government’s attention to the urgent need to contain the developing situation of vigilante justice and mob attacks, particularly on the broader Muslim community.
We urge the government to establish mechanisms to address these situations with appropriate public messaging and to instruct law enforcement authorities to act swiftly to demonstrate that such acts will not be tolerated.
We recognize the need for emergency laws to respond to this situation and rightly so. Yet, we note with deep regret that the emergency regulations published on 22nd April 2019 are overly broad. It is the responsibility of the government to take measures to ensure that the misuse/abuse of these extremely broad powers is anticipated and addressed.
There have already been reports of ill-treatment during searches and there is an urgent need for law enforcement and security personnel to be informed that they must act professionally and with due care.
Excesses experienced during times like this are likely to fuel insecurity and nurture hate and even lead to more violence.
There is a communication vacuum and it is the government’s responsibility to provide accurate and timely information to the public. Rumours and misinformation cannot be stopped by legislation – they can only be countered by facts and credible and accurate information. The government must speak with one voice on this matter.
We urge that the President, and the Prime Minister put aside their personal and political differences and collaborate whole-heartedly and without reservation to bring this situation under control.
The high cost of this political in-fighting was most clearly revealed in failures to share the vital intelligence reports. We cannot afford a second breach. We urge all Members of Parliament to put aside their political differences and act responsibly to support the long-term national interest. We request a joint meeting with the President and Prime Minister to discuss this situation.
We, as a civil society offer our assistance through our wide networks of community-based organisations. They are currently engaged in advocating for calm, for peace, and national unity.
These networks can share information and be a source of feedback about consequential community issues that may arise. If the government develops the capacity to respond swiftly and decisively to such issues it would certainly strengthen the efforts of the authorities.