Civil society groups urge for author Sathkumara’s release | Sunday Observer

Civil society groups urge for author Sathkumara’s release

The bail application inquiry of author Shakthika Sathkumara, will be taken up on August 5 by Kurunegala High Court Judge Menaka Wijesundara. Sathkumara has been in remand custody for over 90 days following his arrest by the Police on April 1 under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Act. Several attempts to obtain bail for him have failed.

Civil society groups have also announced they would intensify their efforts to secure his release. Writer and Member of the Puravesi Balaya Organisation Gamini Viyangoda told the Sunday Observer that civil society members and activists would take the fight to the streets to ensure Sathkumara’s freedom.

He said it was disappointing that such arrests could take place when the Good Governance Government continues to be in power. “If government officials or Bhikkhus can suppress people even under the Yahapalana Government, what use do citizens have of such a government?” he questioned.

He slammed the government for its silence on the matter. “Politicians must not interfere with the justice system, and under good governance, the Judiciary, Police and the Attorney General’s Department must be fair,” he said.

Calling the author’s arrest a grave injustice, Viyangoda said this legal charade should end and Sakthika be released.

Sathkumara was arrested over a short story titled ‘Ardha’ which dabbles with the subjects of relinquishing robes and homosexuality. He was arrested on a complaint by a group of Bhikkhus. Drawing from an example in Buddhism, Viyangoda questioned if the Buddha ever requested leaders of his time to take action against the Chinchimanawika who had attempted to defame the Buddha. “Instead, he looked upon her in kindness,” Viyangoda said. “The Bhikkhus who filed these complaints are not following the path of the Buddha,” he added.

The Police have charged him under S. 3 of the ICCPR Act which states: “No person shall propagate war or advocate national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.”

“Has there been violence, social upheaval or any other effect according to this legal provision as being alleged?” Viyangoda questioned, adding that the last 90 days is proof enough that no such incidents have taken place as a result of Sathkumara’s short story. Viyangoda said the complaint against the author and his arrest has stripped him of his freedom of speech.

Speaking during the debate on state of emergency in Parliament this week, JVP MP Bimal Ratnayake also slammed the authors continued detention. “For 90 days, the ICCPR brought to protect civil and political liberties is being used to imprison an author,” he said.

The MP noted how racist speeches by politicians, religious leaders and some self-proclaimed academics are commonplace, while some television channels spread racism day and night. “But no action is taken against these,” he said.

“Law must be applied equally to all, but this is an unjust situation. What short story warrants being remanded for 90 days? Has there been a social upheaval because of this?” Ratnayake asked the House. “No incident has taken place, but he is being held for 90 days,” the MP noted, adding how law enforcement is using the state of emergency to suppress the people.

Amnesty International has declared short-story writer Sathkumara a ‘prisoner of conscience’ and urged the Government to effect his immediate release.

Sathkumara may face up to 10 years in prison if found guilty. The case filed against the author (B/7673/2019) before the Polgahawela Magistrate’s Court will also be taken up before Magistrate Nelum Priyadharshini on August 6.