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Sri Lankan activists, including FMM secretary, assaulted during civil society event

This statement was originally published on on 22 December 2014.

Free Media Movement condemns the attack by a government politician and his cadres during the 'Vidiye Wirodhaya' event held in Hambantota on 21 December 2014. A group of civil society organizations under the banner 'Viyaruwata Erehiwa, Jeewithaya Wenuwen' (Against Rage, For Life) came together to build a common voice to demand democratic reforms and speak out against the current government's anti-democratic activities.

FMM also demands that the government take tangible action to prevent any future attacks, threats and intimidation by mobs, under the leadership of government politicians, aimed at suppressing peaceful voices of citizens during this election period.

This attack is a gross violation of the freedom of expression of Sri Lankan citizens and a barrier to a free and fair election.

The attack was allegedly carried out by Hambanthota Mayor Eraj Fernando who rose to fame due to the "toy pistol" controversy. Britto Fernando, Jayathilaka Bandara, Philip Dissanayake and the Secretary of the Free Media Movement Sampath Samarakoon were among those that were attacked and threatened by these seemingly government sponsored goons. Mr. Jayathilaka Bandara, Mr Prasanna Fernando and Mr. Sampath Samarakoon were hospitalized due to injuries caused by the thugs.

"While we were protesting in front of the main bus stand in Hambantota, Mayor Mr. Eraj Frenando armed with a pistol and cut-throat razors attacked us around 10:10 am. It was 10:25 when we called 911. Around 3:30pm when we went to the Hambantota police station to make a complaint, they told us that they had not been informed about the incident by the emergency unit," Mr. Sampath Samarakoon said.

Executive Director of CaFFE, Rajith Keerthi Tennakoon, in the CaFFE Election Report 41, stated that "Elections are only a part of political rights and currently the right of holding an opinion, the right to expression, the right to campaign peacefully and the right to free movement of opposition activists are being constantly violated. These [activists] have protested many regimes but it was the first time in recent history that they were assaulted like this."

It is clear that various groups of government supporters constantly attack journalist and civil society activists who are in any way seen to be critical of the government.

We demand that the government, and especially the Sri Lanka Police Force, enforce law and order, and act against these government politicians who are trying to unlawfully obstruct public movements, and to safeguard the freedom of association and freedom expression of the people of Sri Lanka.

We also urge the Election Commissioner to take the necessary actions to ensure a free and fair election, and create an atmosphere free of violence and intimidation for a free and fair election that demonstrates a truthful public opinion.

We request all people who value law and peace to join hands against these attacks.

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