South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR) a regional Human Rights Defenders’ Network is appalled by the tactics used by the Attorney General’s Department of Sri Lanka to prolong the arbitrary detention of the student leader Wasantha Mudalige, at the hearing of his bail application at the Hulftsdorp Magistrates Court on 17 January, 2023. Mudalige was arrested on 18 August 2022; and had been detained on orders signed by President Ranil Wickremesinghe under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).
Consequently, at the latest court hearing, Deleepa Peiris, the Deputy Solicitor General had compelled the Magistrate of Court 08 where the case against Mudalige and Ven. Siridhamma Thero regarding the PTA is currently being heard, to recuse herself from the case by stating that she is biased towards the accused. It was revealed in the ensuing argument that the AG’s Dept. has not submitted the 4 affidavits from the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID) entailing the complaint to the Judicial Services Commission, according to the due process to be followed. Instead, the Deputy Solicitor General had attempted to intimidate the Magistrate presiding over the case which is a clear indication of the state ruthlessly derailing the rule of law. As a result of these unprofessional and anti -democratic actions to stall the case, the case has now been transferred to a new court under a new Magistrate. Wasantha Mudalige has been further remanded till 31 January 2023.
Mudalige, as the convenor of the Inter University Students’ Federation played a crucial part in Aragalaya – the peaceful public protests that arose in 2022 across the country against the government for mismanaging the economy. The prolonged detention of Wasantha Mudalige under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, without any evidence of involvement in a terrorist act is deplorable. Furthermore, Mudalige has been subjected to torture and ill treatment.
Like the previous government, the current government has been using the Prevention of Terrorism Act – a draconian law violating rights and freedoms of the people- even though they have repeatedly pledged to repeal and replace it.
SAHR joins other human rights organisations to call upon the government of Sri Lanka to immediately release Wasantha Mudalige. It also strongly appeals to the government to adhere to the international obligations of which Sri Lanka is a state party and repeal the PTA, thereby preserving the rights and freedoms of the people of Sri Lanka as enshrined in the constitution.
On behalf of the SAHR membership
Dr. Roshmi Goswami
Dr. P. Saravanmuttu