July 5, 2009, South China Morning Post, Hong Kong
Reprinted in human rights periodical Article 2, Hong Kong
In Sri Lanka, victims of police torture are harassed, intimidated and even killed for speaking out against their tormentors. But a new witness protection bill may make walking the legal path a little safer.
Caught on a rare tea break, Father Nandana Manatunga bats at the ‘tsunami’ flies that whirl around his head and ponders a Sri Lankan newpaper headline: “Witness protection bill boost to human rights”. You get the feeling he’d like to be batting at something – or someone – else.
Manatunga and his small team at the Kandy Human Rights Office are preparing for a biannual “victims’ get-together”, a mix of Buddhists and Christians, ethnic Sinhalese and Tamil, refugees from sexual abuse and police brutality – far from the conflict-ridden north of the country. Because many of the party-goers are youngsters, presents are being wrapped in brown envelopes: Mickey Mouse mugs,…