SRI LANKA: A threat to the safety of Dr. Nirmal Devasiri of the University Teachers Union
The Asian Human Rights Commission has received information that two days ago, a group of people who have identified themselves as members of the Ministry of Defense, visited the neighbourhood in which Dr. Nirmal Raanjith Devasiri, (the President of the University Teachers Union and the Secretary of the Arts Faculty Teachers' Association of the University of Colombo (AFTA-CU) resides, and made inquiries about him and his family, in what appears to be an attempt to intimidate them.
Last night, a jeep without a proper licence plate was seen parked near his house. Today, a complaint was lodged at the Maharagama Police Station regarding these intimidating and suspicious actions. The FUTA is preparing to hold a press conference today to inform the media about these incidents.
In a letter written to Gotabaya Rajapakse, the Secretary of the Ministry of Defence and N.R. Illangakoon, the Inspector General of Police, Professor Asanga Tilakaratne, President of the AFTU-CU stated:
"It has been brought to our notice that a group of men claiming to be from the Ministry of Defence have been behaving suspiciously within the neighbourhood of the secretary of Arts Faculty Teachers' Associations (FUTA), Dr. Nirmal Ranjith on June 19, 2012. They have questioned neighbours regarding Dr. Devasiri's movement's and details regarding his family. Dr. Devasiri has lodged a complaint with this regard at the Maharagama Police Station on 21.06.2012. We are deeply concerned about this and request you to immediately launch an investigation into this matter."
The University Teachers Union has been working to improve the livelihoods of university teachers, notably by campaigning for wage increases and improved working conditions. The Minister of Higher Education, the Hon. S.B. Dissanayake, has publicly opposed these efforts.
Trade unionists and political activists who campaign for wage increases and the improvement of working conditions, are frequently threatened, and even, physically attacked. The forced disappearances of unionists and activists who disagree with government officials are a regular occurrence in Sri Lanka. Indeed, last week, a shooting in a small meeting of the JVP led to the deaths of two people.
The Asian Human Rights Commission is extremely concerned about the security of Dr. Devasiri, and calls upon the government of Sri Lanka to enquire into this complaint regarding threats made to Dr. Devasiri and his family, and to take concrete measures to ensure his safety.