Sri Lanka: Stop illegal arrests of activists, NOW!

Stop the attack on MONLAR! #ReleaseChintaka

La Via Campesina Statement | Bagnolet, France | 19 August 2022

In a disturbing development, the current Government of Sri Lanka, led by Ranil Wickremesinghe extended their illegal and illegitimate attack on protestors and social movements by arresting Chintaka Rajapakse, Moderator of MONLAR Sri Lanka and other protestors on the 18th of August 2022.

MONLAR is a member of La Via Campesina. The arrest of Chintaka only signifies the continuing repression unleashed by authoritarian governments upon social movements and peasant leaders. Chintaka Rajapakse comes from an inherited tradition of struggle. He has fearlessly been raising the plight of Sri Lankan peasant communities and plantation workers who bear the brunt of a severe economic and political crisis that has ravaged Sri Lanka.

La Via Campesina, as the world’s largest movement of peasants and small-scale food producers, calls upon the government of Sri Lanka to immediately and unconditionally release Chintaka, and all the arrested activists, students and peasant leaders.

The UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People working in Rural Areas (UNDROP), that Sri Lanka supported and that was adopted in 2018 by a great majority of UN member countries, explicitly defend our right to dissent.

Under Article 6 of the UNDROP, “Peasants and other people working in rural areas shall not be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention, torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and shall not be held in slavery or servitude.” Under Article 8, the Declaration reasserts that “Peasants and other people working in rural areas have the right, individually and/or collectively, in association with others or as a community, to participate in peaceful activities against violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

It is unacceptable and immoral for the Sri Lankan Government led by Ranil Wickremesinghe to contradict the principles they committed in 2018. Stop this repression, NOW!

The people of Sri Lanka have every right to claim a society that guarantees them food sovereignty, economic and social justice, and a life free from the clutches of international debt!

As we cited in our statement in May 2022, the crisis in Sri Lanka has its roots in a series of neoliberal policies pushed forth by global financial institutions. Implementing destructive neoliberal policies advocated by multi-lateral bodies like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund resulted in the State’s withdrawal from essential public services like education, health, nutrition and other basic needs.

The rural debt crisis has pushed several people from the poorest communities to commit suicide. The neoliberal development model has resulted in massive inequities between rich and poor. The poor continue to be exploited through the market-linked reforms that have kept wages low. Pervasive patriarchal practices have aggravated the challenges for rural women and girls.

Chintaka Rajapakse and his social movement have been echoing these lived realities of people through their protests. Instead of arresting them and gagging their right to voice opinions, the Government of Sri Lanka must listen to the needs and demands of the people. 

Release Chintaka and all other activists Now!

Respect and implement the UN Declaration on Rights of Peasants!