This year’s Ramble will play a light on the plight of Sri Lankan journalist, J.S. Tissainayagam, who was arbitrarily detained by the police in Colombo on March 7, 2008 and subsequently indicted under the Prevention of Terrorism Act for two articles written by him in a monthly magazine. On August 31, 2009, he was convicted and sentenced to 20 years rigorous imprisonment. He is appealing his conviction. On January 11, 2010, the court granted his request to be released on bail while his appeal is pending. Amnesty International considers him to be a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned solely in connection with his journalistic activities.
For the past 26 years, Sri Lanka has been wracked by a civil war between the security forces and the armed Tamil opposition group, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who were seeking an independent state for the Tamil. A ceasefire was negotiated in 2002 but broke down in 2006. In mid-May 2009, the Sri Lankan government announced that it had defeated the LTTE, recapturing all the territory formerly controlled by the group and killing their leaders. Since 2006, journalists and other media workers have been prime targets for attack. At least 10 media workers have been the victims of unlawful killings – one has allegedly disappeared in the custody of the security forces, while others have been tortured and arbitrarily detained. Emergency regulations issued by the Sri Lankan President have been used to silence critical media and generally violate freedom of expression in Sri Lanka, including detention without charge or trial for periods lasting up to 18 months.
Ramble organizers hope its event has consequence in the areas of fitness, athletic competition, cancer research, literacy, the arts, human rights and seeking community—all values of a vibrant democracy. It takes the position that human rights are central to the sustenance of these democratic values. The Ramble is joining Amnesty International in a call on the Sri Lankan government to strike down his conviction and grant him an unconditional release. Ask the Sri Lankan government to amend existing legislation so that it is not misused to arbitrarily restrict freedom of expression, and to strike down Tissainayagam's conviction and grant him an unconditional release.