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Sri Lankan government appoints alleged rights abusers - Human Rights Watch

In a recent article South Asia Director for Human Rights Watch (HRW), Meenakshi Ganguly denounced President Ranil Wickremesinghe and his government for the appoinment of three alleged human rights abusers.

On 8 September, Wickremesinghe appointed 37 new ministers. Three of the 37 appointees are implicated in serious human rights violations.

Ganguly emphasizes that this appoinment is another indication that Wickremesinghe and his new administration “is not committed to protecting human rights, ending impunity, or upholding the rule of law.”

Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan

Former paramilitary leader Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan also known as Pillayan, is among the new appointees. Pillayan has been implicated in the abduction of children among other abuses.

Pillayan later went on to join a pro-government armed group and has been accused of assasinating former Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MP Joseph Pararajasingham.

In early 2021 Sri Lanka’s Attorney General Department dropped the charges against suspects involved in the murder of Pararajasingham. Amnesty international called the move a “failure of justice”

Pillayan now serves as a state minister for rural roads and development.

Lohan Ratwatte

Lohan Ratwatte formerly served as prisons minister. In September of 2021, Ratwatte reportedly drunkenly stormed Anaradhpura prison and forced ten Tamil inmates to kneel before him at gunpoint.

During the incident Ratwatte asked the inmates one by one if they had killed any soldiers.

Whilst continuing to point his gun at the Tamil inmates Ratwatte said “you sent complaints to the United Nations and Geneva, but nothing will happen, and we will never let anything happen” he continued “when the president gave me the minister position, he told me to do whatever I wanted with Tamil political prisoners […] I can release you or I can kill you.”

Ratwatte is now state minister for plantation industries.

Sanath Nishantha

Sananth Nishantha is currently being investigated by the Sri Lankan police for his alleged role in the violent attack on anti-government protesters.

On 9 May, several hundred individuals identifiying themselves as supporters of former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa attacked peacful anti-government protesters who had gathered on Galle Face Green.

Footage showed government supporters using clubs and other weapons to attack anti-government protesters.

Nishantha was arrested on 15 May in conncection to the attacks and released on bail a month later.

Sanath Nishantha is now the minister of water supply.

Wickremesinghe has been heavily criticized by foreign ministers and numerous civil and human rights groups for his use of the military to forcibly disperse peacful protesters.

The Sri Lankan government has also relied on the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) to “detain alleged protest leaders without charge.” Additionally, Wickremesinghe has utilized emergency measures to harass and intimidate activists.

This month the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is set to discuss a new resolution on Sri Lanka’s human rights situation.

Ganguly highlights that “the government’s egregious appointments this week and its heavy-handed response to peaceful protests should make it clear to UN member countries that Sri Lanka’s rights situation is declining rapidly.”

Read full HRW article here

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