From left: Moderator Nalaka Gunawardena, Thevanayagam Premanath (Editor Uthayan), Sanjana Hattotuwa, Dr Deepika Udagama, Sonali Samarasinghe and Ruwan Gunasekera (Pic courtesy Information Department)
Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission Dr. Deepika Udagama said last week that actions of the government and the LTTE couldn’t be compared under any circumstances.
Dr. Udagama said so in response to a query raised by The Island at a UNESCO sponsored conference on media freedom. She was on a panel that dealt with fighting impunity in Sri Lanka: Review of challenges and achievements at Taj Samudra on Dec 4.
The Island: “You have discussed the situation in Sri Lanka without taking into consideration security challenges faced by successive governments. It’s certainly not fair to discuss challenges faced by the media ignoring the then security situation. The LTTE killed one president, made an abortive bid on the life of another. The LTTE also claimed the lives of about forty members of parliament.” Referring to the statement made by the Uthayan editor, The Island pointed out: “TNA MP M.A. Sumanthiran several months ago accused former members of the LTTE of making an attempt on his life. In fact, the MP told me of the alleged bid to assassinate him in the Jaffna peninsula. Don’t you think you should be worried about safety and security of all, including journalists.”
Dr. Udagama responded on behalf of the panel. The legal luminary pointed out: “… citizens (including journalists) sought protection from the government of the day as the State, which the government represents, is under a paramount obligation to protect the rights of its citizens. When citizens’ rights are violated directly by the government or through other actors who appear to have the protection of the government and institutions that provide redress for rights violations are not responding to their appeals, then the citizenry is rendered very vulnerable and helpless.”
As regards LTTE atrocities, Dr. Udagama pointed out that it is for the State itself to take legal action against them as a non-state entity. The State and non-state entities cannot, and should not, be equated.”(SF)