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 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 mis-use / abuse of these extremely broad powers are 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 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.  False 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 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 vital intelligence. 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 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 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.

Geoffrey Alagaratnam
President’s Counsel

Dr Vinya Ariyaratne

All Ceylon YMMA Conference  

Visaka Dharmadasa
Association of War Affected Women (AWAW) 

Fr Rohan Dominic
Claretian Missionaries (CMF) 

Mangala Fernando
Women’s Political Academy (WPA)

Fr Oswald Firth OMI
Peoples Association for Peace and Development (PAPD) 

Manjula Gajanayake
Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) 

Saman Hamangoda
Partners in Alternative Training (PALTRA) 

Rohana Hettiarachchi
People’s Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL) 

Sakunthala Kadirgamar
Law and Society Trust (LST)

Sepali Kottegoda
Women and Media Collective

Sri Lanka Women’s NGO Forum

Viola Perera
Action Network For Migrant Workers (ACTFORM) 

Jehan Perera
National Peace Council (NPC) 

Fr Srian Ranasinghe OMI
Director Oblate Missions 

Kumudini Samuel
Women and Media Collective (WMD) 

Christobel Saverimuttu
Sri Lanka Council of Religions for Peace (SLCRP) 

Fr. Rohan Silva OMI
Centre for Society and Religion (CSR) 

Padmini Weerasuriya
Mothers and Daughters of Lanka 

Joe William
Centre for Communication Training (CCT) 

Mohamed Adamaly (Attorney-at-Law)
Sanchia Brown (Women and Media Collective)
Shashika De Silva
Ramesh Fernando
Adrian Ferdinands
Lasantha Garusinghe (Attorney-at-Law)
Velayudan Jayachithra (Women and Media Collective)
Diana Joseph
Nishantha Kumara
Safi Nayaj
Shantha D. Pathirana
Shivantha Ratnayake (Centre for Communication Training)
Raja Senanayake (National Peace Council)
Vijayanathan Thusandra
Nagaratnam Vijayakanthan (National Peace Council)
Saman Seneviratne
Thiyagaraja Waradas (University of Colombo)
Subha Wijesiriwardena (Women and Media Collective)