The Citizens Peace Award for 2010 of the National Peace Council of Sri Lanka has been awarded to Dr Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, Executive Director of the Centre for Policy Alternatives. Dr Saravanamuttu was selected from 52 nominations received after the award was announced in November 2010. The National Peace Council is happy that its inaugural selection should be of a person who holds a leading position in a well known civil society organization and has distinguished himself and his work by courage, risk-taking and consistency over many years.
Dr Saravanamuttu has been a strong advocate of a political solution to the ethnic conflict in the country which is at the basis of NPC’s own mandate. During the years of war, as head of the Centre for Policy Alternatives and in his own personal capacity as a political commentator, Dr Saravanamuttu spoke steadfastly on behalf of a negotiated and just political settlement. Over these years he emerged as a leading champion of the ideals of human rights, good governance and power sharing between the different ethnic communities as an integral part of a solution to the ethnic conflict.
Among Dr Saravanamuttu’s many outstanding contributions two have attracted our sincere admiration. One is the courage he has shown in word and deed to mitigate the culture of fear stemming from impunity, extra judicial killings, terrorism and intolerance of free expression of political opinion. He has thereby given leadership to many others in civil society and media to express their own views and engage in debate in accordance with the freedoms and ideals of political life in a democracy. The other was his taking up the cause of temporary Tamil residents of Colombo city who were threatened with mass expulsion by government decree during the height of the war in 2007. As head of the Centre for Policy Alternatives, he filed legal action in the Supreme Court and prevailed, thereby inspiring confidence that the processes of justice continued to be available to vindicate the rights of citizens.
The Citizens Peace Award was established in 2010 by the National Peace Council to honour and encourage those individuals in civil society who have demonstrated courage and consistency in the protection of and respect for human rights; peaceful settlement of disputes and promoting increased understanding between and among communities. Other criteria considered included work in hostile conditions, sacrifices made and being a Sri Lankan citizen working within Sri Lanka. The selection of the winner was by the nine member Board of Directors of NPC and ratified by its 20 member Governing Council from recommendations made by a five member nominations committee after calling for nominations in the print media in the national languages and its website. The prize is made possible by funds received from the Sakai City Government’s Peace Contribution Award, Soroptimist International of Osaka Izumi and the National Peace Council.