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Buddhist monk praises Rajapaksa's 'discipline and respect' for Buddhist Sanga whilst human rights organisations warn against increasing authoritarianism

Buddhist monk, Ralapanawe Dhammajothi, applauded Sri Lanka President Gotabaya Rajapaksa for maintain “discipline and respect” for the Buddhist Sanga whilst further claiming that “no one could impede the President’s endeavour to redirect the country”.

The monk further claimed that Rajapaksa firm stance whilst “all others merely criticise others”. This statement comes as human rights organisations warn against a brutal repression of free speech and as the government has announced a much-criticised, all Sinhala Buddhist task force in the East of Sri Lanka to ‘‘preserve the historical heritage of Sri Lanka’’.

During a meeting with the Independent Television Network (ITN), Rajapaksa insisted that the media must ““help preserve Sri Lankan identity and cultural values”.

Rajapaksa’s previous tenure, during which he held the post of defence secretary, saw murders, kidnappings and persecution of media personnel who were critical of the government.

According to Together Against Genocide, from 2004 to 2009, over 48 journalists and media workers were reported killed, 41 of whom were Tamil. Whilst defence secretary, Rajapaksa stated that dissent during a time of war is treason, he has been almost as frank in recent weeks, declaring that only “favourable media reporting” must be allowed.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has also warned about the rise in attacks on journalists and Tamil Guardian correspondents on the ground have faced acts of violence and harassment by the security forces. Sri Lanka is ranked 126th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.

INFORM Human Rights Documentation Centre has also reported a rise in the repression of dissent in Sri Lanka during the month of May.

Their report highlights that Tamils were disproportionately targeted, particularly around Mullivaikkal remembrance events, where the Tamil community were intimidated and harassed by Sri Lankan police and military personnel.

Read more from the President’s Media Division