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March 28, 2023

Tell Sri Lanka to stop repression against peaceful protests – Rights activists urge Colombo diplomats

Last Updated on November 20, 2022 by Lankae Cast

A group of civil society organisations, trade unions and human rights activists in Sri Lanka have requested the diplomatic community in Colombo to urge Ranil Wickremesinghe government to immediately end suppression on the fundamental rights of Sri Lankans.

Signed by 150 activists and 75 organisations, the letter also urge the ambassadors and high commissioners in Colombo to urge Sri Lanka government to repeal the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act.

Condemning all forms of harassment and intimidation against protesters, the activists call upon Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa administration to release those detained under the PTA.

The full letter is produced below:

Dear Ambassadors/High Commissioners,

Re: Call on the GoSL to stop repression against peaceful protesters and unconditionally Release IUSF student leaders held under the Prevention of Terrorism Act

We, the undersigned civil society organisations, trade unions and human rights activists from Sri Lanka, unequivocally condemn the violent repression of dissent by the Sri Lankan State, and the blatant denial of the people’s freedoms of expression and association.

Sri Lankan authorities have responded to peaceful protests and legitimate demands for a responsible and accountable government, through violence and legal reprisals. We are concerned by the systematic use of force to disperse and punish protesters, and legal persecution, including arbitrary arrest and detention as a form of reprisal. We are especially alarmed by the use of anti-terror law – the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) against protesters, despite assurances to the international community of a moratorium on its use.  Wasantha Mudalige, the  Convenor of the Inter University Student Federation (IUSF) and Ven. Galwewa Siridhamma, Convenor of the Inter University Bhikku  Federation (IUBF) have been detained for almost 90 days without charge and recourse to bail under the PTA.  Families and lawyers of the detained students have repeatedly raised concerns regarding their inhumane detention conditions, which are unsanitary, unsafe and have impacted their health. Young student activist of the IUSF, Hashan Jeewantha, who was arrested along with Mudalige and Ven. Siridhamma on 18 August, 2022, was unconditionally released on 07 October (having spent 50 days in detention,) without any charges against him.

We appreciate your support in demanding for the immediate release of Wasantha Mudalige and Ven. Galwewa Siridhamma, by the Government of Sri Lanka, prior to the expiry of their detention orders on 18 November, 2022. We call on the international community to ensure an end to this targeted persecution of student leaders and activists, and that there be no extension to their  90 day detention order under the PTA.

The IUSF, along with trade unions, professionals and civil society groups, have made a crucial contribution to the recent peoples’ uprising that forced the previous President, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance to resign from their positions. With the high inflation and deepening economic crisis, people have been continuously protesting over the unbearable rise in the price of goods and services, bad governance, corruption and a lack of State accountability. Protesters are also calling for an immediate end to State repression which has escalated under the Presidency of Ranil Wickremesinghe. Protesters have been able to garner the support of the international community, who played a vital role in ensuring pressure on the Government of Sri Lanka, for its conduct leading to the economic crisis, but also on reprisals against peaceful dissent. We appreciate the oversight and engagement of the diplomatic community, United Nations special procedures including the mandates on Freedom of Expression, Human Rights Defenders, and international human rights organisations, in responding to the State of repression on protesters and the shrinking civic space in the country. In this light, we believe that your support in strengthening the voice of the protesters in demanding the release of student leaders, Wasantha Mudalige and Ven. Siridhamma himi, is crucial to fulfilling the people’s expectations to preserve democratic values. We also would like to reiterate that even though that certain parties in the international community hold the favourable disposition towards President Wickremesinghe and his proposed plan to resolve the current economic crisis, his unscrupulous schemes to suppress public protests, restrict peoples’ freedoms of expression and association should never be condoned.

In a time of economic, social and political crisis, we are further concerned that the Government’s actions against its people will hinder the GSP+ concession which is up for review next year. We maintain that all engagement with Sri Lanka must be based on clear and transparent human rights benchmarks – this includes trade and financial engagement in order to ensure real transformation and prevent recurrence. Government attempts to label and criminalize citizen protests through mis/dis information, and to shift the blame for the imminent loss of the GSP+ on protesters and ordinary citizens, is disingenuous and must not be accepted. The Government must accept and withdraw its repressive mandate, impunity and corruption, which has led to the economic crisis.

We, as civil society organisations, continue to advocate for the repeal of the PTA in any form, which is being used now 13 years after the end of the war. We believe that this draconian law has been deliberately misused to violate the rights and freedoms of the people of Sri Lanka, particularly to repress the Tamil and Muslim minorities and curtail dissent, specifically the voices that may be critical against the government. According to the Terrorism Investigation Division (TID), there are 127 detainees in total, detained under the PTA to date, and a further 11 persons have died in custody.[1]

Therefore, we call on Your Excellency, to support our struggle to protect rights and freedoms in Sri Lanka.  Your support is an important contribution to the work being done on the ground by civil society, student movements, unions and ordinary citizens. We further request your support in calling on the Government of Sri Lanka to immediately end suppression on the fundamental rights of Sri Lankans, and all forms of harassment and intimidation against protesters, the release of those detained under the PTA as well as the repeal of this draconian law. (Related story: මර්ධනය නවත්වන්නැයි ආණ්ඩුවට බලපෑම් කරන්න – ජාත්‍යන්තර ප්‍රජාවගෙන් ඉල්ලීමක් )

Signed by;


  1. A. Ajitha
  2. A.M.S.D. Perera
  3. Amali Wedagedara
  4. Amalini de Sayrah
  5. Angelica Chandrasekeran – Holistic Therapist & Metaphysical Counselor
  6. Anithra Varia
  7. Anthony Vinoth – Human Rights Activist
  8. Anuratha Rajaretnam
  9. Anushaya Collure
  10. Ashila Dandeniya
  11. B. Gowthaman
  12. B. Sukitha
  13. Bhavani Fonseka
  14. Bishop Duleep de Chickera – Member, Anglican Church of Sri Lanka
  15. Bishop Kumara Illangasinghe
  16. Buddhima Padmasiri – Attorney-at-Law
  17. Caryll Tozer – Environmental and Women and Child Rights Activist
  18. Chamila Thushari
  19. Chandra Devanarayana
  20. Channaka Jayasinghe
  21. Chintaka Rajapakse
  22. Christine Perera – Activist
  23. D.G.N.U.K. Jayarathna
  24. Damaris Wickremesekera
  25. Deanne Uyangoda
  26. Deekshya Illangasinghe
  27. Devika Kodithuwakku
  28. Dhammika Munasinghe
  29. Dhanusha Pathirana
  30. Dharmasiri Lankapeli – Chairperson, Socialist People’s Forum 
  31. Dilrukshi Handunnetti – Journalist and Attorney-at-Law
  32. Dinushika Dissanayake
  33. Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu
  34. Dr. Ranil D. Guneratne
  35. Dulan de Silva
  36. Duminda Nagamuwa
  37. Ephraim Shadrach
  38. Ermiza Tegal – Attorney-at-Law
  39. Francis Costa Priyankara
  40. Gamini Akmeemana
  41. Gamini Sisira Kumara
  42. Gayathri Gamage
  43. Geethika Dharmasinghe – Visiting Professor, Colgate University
  44. Godfrey Yogarajah
  45. Gratian A. Peiris – Transformation Facilitator
  46. Hemamali Abeyrathna
  47. Herman Kumara
  48. Ian Ferdinands
  49. J. Thayalini
  50. J.A.N.N.P. Fernando – Accountant & Social Activist
  51. J.B. Gurusinghe
  52. Jayalath Perera
  53. Jayani Abeysekara – Human Rights Activist
  54. Jayanthi Kuru-Utumpala
  55. Joanne Senn
  56. Joseph Stalin
  57. K. Hemalatha
  58. K. Nihal Ahamed
  59. K. Saththiyaseelan
  60. K.J. Brito Fernando
  61. Kalpa Munasinghe
  62. Lakshman  Gunasekara – President, Sri Lanka Chapter, South Asian Free Media Association
  63. Lasantha de Silva
  64. Lucille Abeykoon
  65. M. Nirmalathevi
  66. M. Sitralega – Independent Feminist Researcher, Batticaloa
  67. Mario Arulthas
  68. Mario Gomez
  69. Marisa de Silva
  70. Marx Prabhagar
  71. Mayura Senanayaka
  72. Mirak Raheem – Researcher and Activist
  73. N. Arththigan
  74. Nabeela Iqbal
  75. Nadishani Perera
  76. Nagulan Nesiah
  77. Natasha Vanhoff
  78. Nilshan Fonseka
  79. P. Muthulingam
  80. P. Pushpalatha
  81. P.G. Gamage – Human Rights Activist
  82. P.N. Singham
  83. Padma Pushpakanthi
  84. Pasan Jayasinghe
  85. Peter Rezel – Management Consultant
  86. Philip Dissanayake
  87. Philip Setunga
  88. Prabodha Rathnayaka – Attorney-at-Law
  89. Puni Selvaratnam – Women for Justice and Peace in Sri Lanka
  90. R. Kounthini
  91. R. Ranjan
  92. Rajany Rajeshwary
  93. Rajkumar Rajeevkanth
  94. Ranjan Senanayake
  95. Rekha Nilukshi
  96. Rev. Fr. Jeyabalan Croos
  97. Rev. Fr. Nandana Manatunga
  98. Rev. Sr. Nichola Emmanuel
  99. Rohini Hensman – Writer and Researcher
  100. Rosanna Flamer-Caldera
  101. Rosel Sameera
  102. Ruki Fernando
  103. Ruwan Laknath Jayakody – Writer
  104. S. Amarasinghe
  105. S. Easwarai
  106. S. Ethayarani
  107. S. Mariyarosalin
  108. S. Mohana Dharshiny
  109. S. Niththi
  110. S. Tharsan
  111. S. Thileepan
  112. S.C.C. Elankovan
  113. S.T. Ganeshalingam
  114. Sabra Zahid
  115. Sakuntala Kadirgamar
  116. Sampath Samarakoon
  117. Sandun Thudugala
  118. Sarah Arumugam – Attorney-at-Law
  119. Sarala Emmanuel
  120. Sarath Karunadasa
  121. Saroj Pathirana – Journalist, “Sandeshaya by Saroj”
  122. Sathivel Visvalinam
  123. Sheila Richards
  124. Shreen Saroor
  125. Shyam Pathiraja
  126. Shyamala Gomez
  127. Sirithunga Jayasooriya – General Secretary, United Socialist Party
  128. Srinath Perera – Attorney-at-Law
  129. Subathra Yogasingham
  130. Suchith Abeyewickreme – Civic Activist
  131. Sunanda Deshapriya
  132. Swasthika Arulingam
  133. T.V. Sankha Ranadheera
  134. Tempitiye Sugathananda himi
  135. Tharindu Jayawardhana
  136. Tharindu Uduwaragedara
  137. Thilak Kariyawasam
  138. Thyagi Ruwanpathirana
  139. Tisaranee Gunasekara
  140. Upul Wickramasinghe – Durham University
  141. V. Mahenderan – National Organiser, New Democratic Marxist-Leninist Party
  142. V. Shamini
  143. V. Sinthuka
  144. Vaas Gunawardena
  145. Viraj Abayarathna
  146. Visakha Tillekeratne
  147. Wasantha Karunatilake
  148. Wijepala Weerakoon
  149. Y.B. Jayasekara
  150. Yamini Ravindran – Attorney-at-Law


  1. All Employee Union of Information and Telecommunication
  2. Alliance Development Trust
  3. Alliance for Minorities
  4. Ampara District Alliance for Land Rights (ADALR)
  5. Centre for Equality and Justice (CEJ)
  6. Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA)
  7. Ceylon Bank Employees’ Union
  8. Ceylon Teachers’ Union
  9. Collective for Progressive Unity
  10. Commercial & Industrial Workers Union (CIWU)
  11. Committee for Protecting Rights of Prisoners (CPRP)
  12. Community Welfare and Development Fund
  13. Dabindu Collective
  14. Equal Ground
  15. Families of the Disappeared (FoD)
  16. Federation of Media Employees Trade Unions
  17. FIAN Sri Lanka  
  18. Forum for a Plural Democracy
  19. Free Media Movement (FMM)
  20. Free Trade Union Centre
  21. Free Women
  22. Government Midwife Services Union
  23. Human Elevation Organization (HEO)
  24. Human Rights Office, Kandy
  25. Institute of Social Development (ISD)
  26. Insurance General Employees Union
  27. International Centre for Ethnic Studies (ICES)
  28. Joint Development Officers Center
  29. Joint Engineering Corporation Employees Union
  30. Joint Health Workers Union
  31. Joint Railway Employees Union
  32. Joint Teachers Service Union
  33. Joint Water Supply Workers Union
  34. Justice for Victims
  35. Lanka Progressive Teachers Union
  36. Law and Society Trust (LST)
  37. Lawyers Forum for the People
  38. Liberation Movement
  39. Mannar Women’s Development Federation (MWDF)
  40. Mass Movement for Social Justice (MMSJ)
  41. Maynmai
  42. Media Law Forum (MLF)
  43. Movement for National Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR)
  44. Movement for Plantation Peoples’ Land Rights (MPPLR)
  45. Muslim Women’s Research and Action Forum (MWRAF)
  46. National Fisheries Solidarity Movement (NAFSO)
  47. National Trade Protection Council
  48. People’s Alliance for Right to Land (PARL)
  49. Plantation Workers Centre
  50. Praja Abhilasha Network
  51. Private Sector Employees Centre
  52. Professional Center for People
  53. Protect Union
  54. Revolutionary Experience of Human Development (RED)
  55. Right to Life (R2L) Human Rights Centre
  56. Rule of Law Forum
  57. Satahan Media
  58. Savisthri National Women’s Movement   
  59. Sisterhood Initiative
  60. Social Institute for Development of Plantation Sector (SIDPS)
  61. Sri Lanka All Telecommunication Employees Union (SLATEU)
  62. Sri Lanka Nature Group (SLNG)
  63. Standup Movement Lanka
  64. Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL)
  65. United Federation of Labour (UFL)
  66. United General Services Union
  67. Upcountry Civil Society Collective (UCSC)
  68. Vallamai Movement for Social Change, Jaffna
  69. Women’s Action Network (WAN)
  70. Women’s Action for Social Justice
  71. Women’s Liberation Thought Organisation
  72. Workers Struggle Center
  73. Young Journalists Association (YJA)
  74. Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA)
  75. YOUTH FOR CHEnge