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Sri Lanka - Arrest of human rights defenders Mr Aruna Roshantha and Mr Marcus Anthony Fernando
On 28 November 2010, human rights defenders Mr Aruna Roshantha and Mr Marcus Anthony Fernando were arrested on charges of conspiring against the Government in Sri Lanka after being requested to attend a meeting at the Police Headquarters to discuss their recent human rights activities.
Aruna Roshantha is a trade union leader with the Sri Lanka All Island Fishermen's Trade Union and Marcus Anthony Fernando is the Chairperson of the Negombo Lagoon Fisher People's Union. Both are leaders in the Alliance to Protect the Negombo Lagoon.
On 28 November 2010, Aruna Roshantha and Marcus Anthony Fernando were arrested, before subsequently being released on bail, under Section 150 of the Penal Code for conspiring against, and trying to incite people to overthrow, the Government of Sri Lanka.
That morning the two union leaders had been summoned by the Negombo Police to attend a meeting with Inspector Somasiri Liyanage at the Police Headquarters in Negombo. During the course of the meeting they were questioned over the distribution of a pamphlet on 27 November 2010 that explained environmental problems that would result from the reclamation of part of the Negombo Lagoon as part of a Government project to promote tourism to the region.
The reclaimed land is the proposed site for a new landing strip for sea planes. Protest actions against the plans have resulted in a temporary cessation of some project activities. On the day in question approximately 60 people, including Aruna Roshantha and Marcus Anthony Fernando, were involved in distributing the pamphlets explaining the adverse consequences of the project. There were allegedly a number of plain clothes police officers amongst the crowd but there were no reports of problems or obstructions.
Front Line believes that the arrests of Aruna Roshantha and Marcus Anthony Fernando is a result of their legitimate and peaceful activities in the defence of human rights in Sri Lanka, and in particular their attempts to protect the Negombo Lagoon and the rights of those whose livelihoods are dependent upon its protected environment.