More than seven hundred Amnesty International human rights activists, including many high school students from the New England area, held a rally in front of Sri Lanka UN Mission Friday, demanding justice for Ragihar Manoharan and four of his friends extra-judically executed by Sri Lanka military on the 2nd January 2006. The protesting students demanded Colombo to bring perpetrators of the crime to justice. Sri Lanka was one of the rights violators, besides China/Tibet, Indonesia and Burma, targeted by the "Get on the Bus for Human Rights (GOTB)" rally organized by the Boston Chapter of Amnesty International.
Amnesty rally held Friday in NY
The event included a morning session at the Cooper Union featuring a panel of speakers on each action.
The Sri Lanka action featured a videotaped message from Dr. Manoharan, Ragihar’s father, thanking AI USA for its lobbying efforts on behalf of the Trincomalee student victims.
This was followed by J.S. Tissainayagam, a freelance Journalist incarcerated in Sri Lanka for writing on human rights.
Mr. Tissainayagam spoke about the ‘Trinco Five’ killings, the failure of the Sri Lankan Government to investigate these killings and Ragihar’s father Dr. Manoharan’s campaign for justice. He also narrated his own story on how he was imprisoned by the Sri Lankan Government under the prevention of terrorism act in 2008, Amnesty International campaign for his freedom, GOTB actions featuring his case for three consecutive years and his eventual freedom in 2010 due to the mounting international pressure.
Afternoon session started with a rally in front of the Sri Lanka Mission to the UN. Many Tamils from the NY, NJ area also joined the AI activists in chanting ‘Justice for Ragihar’, ‘Justice for Trinco Five’, ‘Sri Lanka, the world is watching you” and ‘UN, Investigate war Crimes’. Representatives from GOTB also met with the Sri Lanka UN mission officials to emphasize the need for Justice for ‘Trinco Five’.
GOTB is an annual day of human rights education and activism organized by Amnesty International USA Group 133 of Somerville, MA and a team of volunteer community organizers.
Now in its seventeenth year, GOTB draws upwards of 1200 participants riding buses, commuter trains, and carpooling down to New York City each year. The Boston Tamil community members have been part of the GOTB event for the last several years promoting human rights not only in Sri Lanka but all over the world.
Indonesia action featured release of Filep Karma, a prominent advocate for the rights of Indonesia’s Papuan population, who is serving 15 years in prison for raising a flag. The Burma (Myanmar) action called for the release of Khun Kawrio, Ko Aye Aung, and All Prisoners of Conscience. The China action focused on the release of Dhondup Wangchen, a Tibetan documentary filmmaker who has been sentenced to six years imprisonment for “subversion”.
Tissainayagam is currently a Fellow at Harvard’s Weatherhead Center for International Studies. Tissainayagam was Amnesty’s Prisoner of Conscience, and was released after President Obama mentioned his name on the 2009 Press Freedom Day saying his case was " emblematic of the hundreds of journalists who face intimidation, censorship, and arbitrary arrest."