Celebrating International Human Rights Day 2017, the Human Rights Office in Kandy organized Human Rights Salutation, which was held at the Good Shepherd Convent in Kandy on December 10, 2017 with the theme “Let’s stand up for Equality, Justice and Human Dignity” with the participation of more than 500 persons including religious leaders, victims, human rights defenders, award winners and well-wishers.
Prominent human rights activists and the winners of school and Sunday school art and essay competitions were recognised during the programme. Rt. Rev. Dr. Winston Fernando SSS President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Sri Lanka and Bishop of Badulla was the chief guest while Ven. Dr. Atipola Mangala Thera delivered the keynote address. In the absence of Eran Wickramaratne, the State Minister of Finance, his secretary Asiri Thushara Uralagamage was present to deliver the message sent by him.
Torture survivor Chamila Bandara was awarded for courage in fighting against torture and other cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment and punishment, and seeking justice to punish the perpetrators during the most repressive regime ...
Fr. Nandana Manatunga, director of the Human Rights Office, introducing the event, said that this year’s, Human Rights Day will kick off a year-long campaign to mark the upcoming 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a milestone document that proclaimed the inalienable rights which everyone is inherently entitled to as a human being regardless of race, colour, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Further he said it’s important to recognize and appreciate the courage of survivors as well as human rights defenders and activists to create a culture of human rights and encouraged school children, victims and activists to defend protect and promote the rights of all citizens.
Ms. Ermiza Tegal, was awarded for her dedicated and untiring work as a human rights lawyer who sought justice and redress for the victims of torture, victims of the defective justice system and for her commitment in campaigning for the rights of the minorities and protecting the rights of children. Rev. Sr. Nichola Emmanuel was awarded for upholding Christian values, for her commitment and dedicated services for the families of the disappeared and the families of the prisoners, defending, protecting the rights of the poor and the marginalized in the society.
Ven. Dr. Atipola Mangala Thera and Rt. Rev. Dr. Winston Fernando SSS
Torture survivor Chamila Bandara was awarded for courage in fighting against torture and other cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment and punishment, and seeking justice to punish the perpetrators during the most repressive regime, risking their lives and their families, breaking the silence of the suffering survivors of torture.
The art and essay competitions initiated a discussion on the most crucial human rights issues among the students, teachers, and parents, religious and within a larger section of civil society.
Applications were sent to schools, Sunday Schools in the Sinhala & Tamil mediums covering the entire Central Province. A total of 1390 students from 187 schools in the Central Province participated in art and essay competitions, while 976 children from 177 multi religious schools (Sunday Schools) participated. The art and essay competitions initiated a discussion on the most crucial human rights issues among the students, teachers, and parents, religious and within a larger section of civil society.
Ven. Dr. Atipola Mangala Thera in his key note address said that Sri Lanka has a history of upholding values even as a kingdom. Kings never arrested anyone if they were in a temple or if they were being treated in a hospital but at present things have changed and everything revolves around the greed for political power. As a nation we have suffered through the disasters in 1971, 1988-91 and during the 30-year-civil-war. “We should realize that at the end it is we that suffer without any differentiation, as a monk, I believe we have a responsibility to guide the society without being influenced by politicians and perhaps this may be our last opportunity”.
Congratulating the 2017 award winners, the thera said “I do commend your involvement in this field and also remind you that this award is also a responsibility that is bestowed on you to continue the good work that you do and to inspire more people”.
We should realize that at the end it is we that suffer without any differentiation, as a monk, I believe we have a responsibility to guide the society without being influenced by politicians and perhaps this may be our last opportunity
The chief guest, Badulla Bishop Julian Winston Sebastian Fernando, addressing gathering said that it is unfortunate to learn that Sri Lanka is listed as the fourth most corrupt country in the world, an absolute disheartening piece of news. He further said that human rights have found its way into each country’s governing system and the UDHR has as a place in their respective constitutions and that has to be admired. “As we are preparing to celebrate the birth of Christ, let me remind you that Christ was born for everyone and he stood for equality and justice”.
State Minister Eran Wickramaratne in his message, conveyed how honoured he was by the invitation extended for the Human Rights Salutation committee. He sent his deepest regrets for being unable to attend as he was unexpectedly requested by the President to head the Sri Lankan delegation to the “One Planet Summit” in Paris.
The Protocol will allow for the regular inspection of the places of detention and to take necessary action to improve the welfare of the people detained on Judicial Orders...
“Sri Lanka acceded to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment on December 5 2017 and it will enter into force in Sri Lanka on January 4, 2018. Signing of the Optional Protocol under the Convention demonstrates our determination to combat torture and our commitment to co-operate with international mechanisms. The Protocol will allow for the regular inspection of the places of detention and to take necessary action to improve the welfare of the people detained on Judicial Orders. There is much more work to be done and we cannot afford to falter, but I am hopeful about the future.”
The parents of those who had disappeared, families of prisoners, torture and rape survivors and those who participated in various workshops during the year 2017 were also presented with souvenir’s to encourage and appreciate their commitment and consistency in their efforts to reactivate the dysfunctional justice system that constantly failed them in the past.
Ermiza Tegal receiving Human Rights salutation from Rt. Rev. Dr. Winston Fernando SSS. Fr. Nandana Manatunga, Director of the Human Rights Office looks on.