Federation of University Teachers Associations (FUTA) is appalled at the arbitrary arrest of Ceylon Teachers Union (CTU) Chairman and iconic education sector trade union leader Joseph Stalin. This is a continuation of the wave of state terror unleashed by the illegitimate Wickremaisnghe-Pohottuwa regime from the moment it assumed power – with the pre-dawn ‘attack’ on Gota Go Gama on 21st July. This is an insidious attempt to generate a sense of fear psychosis within social activists and society at large and a dangerous infringement of basic freedoms guaranteed by the constitution of Sri Lanka. It is truly a dark irony that Mr. Ranil Wickremasinge, the current Executive President, is on the Hansard record in parliament criticizing the arbitrary detention of Stalin under spurious COVID quarantine regulations back in 2020 during the anti KNDU struggle. Mr. Wickremasinghe went to the extent of stating that Sri Lanka is in danger of losing the European Union GSP Plus scheme because Mr. Stalin was an internationally admired education sector activist. Further, adding insult to injury Mr. Wickremasinghe delivering the ‘throne speech’ in parliament today as the Executive President repeatedly stated that he is committed to respecting the right to peaceful dissent even as the police force he commands sent 25 officers to the headquarters of CTU to arrest this iconic education sector activist – a man who is the epitome of peaceful but committed trade union activism.
In addition to Joseph Stalin a number of leading aragalaya activists have been systematically arrested under spurious charges over the last few days. This is a clear strategy to unleash state repression and terror and to create a culture of quietism and self-censorship where people will be reluctant to exercise their democratic right to dissent and protest. Clearly this is the strategy of a failed and repressive leader who is unable to deliver the economic stability he promised to the nation. The international image of the Wickramasinghe-Phottuwa regime is now under severe strain and Mr. Wickremasinghe’s much touted liberal credentials lie in tatters. Within this context it is doubtful that even the aid that was potentially coming Sri Lanka’s way from liberal states that respect human rights will be forthcoming. We remind the Wickremasinghe-Pohottuwa government that it has embarked on a dangerous and destructive anti-democratic path and to therefore immediately halt this repressive trend. We also remind the government that the wellbeing of Joseph Stalin and all those who have been arbitrarily arrested in the last few days lie with the authorities and to immediately release them and uphold the democratic fundamentals of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka.