Mother allowed to visit detained poet for first time

Detained poet Ahnaf Jazeem’s mother had met Jazeem for the first time since his detention over a year ago at the Welikada Prison Complex last Saturday (9), Jazeem’s legal representation Sanjaya Wilson Jayasekera told The Morning yesterday (10).

Jayasekera said that the meeting had only lasted a few minutes, adding that the process dehumanises the most important human relationship. 

“The Sri Lankan prison system dehumanises both humans and human relationships. I condemn this system where men are incarcerated in the most squalid of conditions. It shows how brutally the ruling governments are treating the working class for whom the prisons are made. All prisoners meet the person that they have the closest relationship with during prison visits. This relationship is not honored in our prison system – Ahnaf and his mother had no privacy and no time with each other on Saturday (9),” said Jayasekera.

Jazeem was arrested in connection to his Tamil-language poetry anthology, titled Navarasam, which the authorities have alleged as promoting “extremist” ideologies. However, various quarters have since questioned these allegations, pointing out that translations of his work show the exact opposite, where his poems are explicitly against war and violence. A number of local and international organisations, including Amnesty International, have condemned this arbitrary arrest and called for the poet’s immediate release. 

Last month, Jazeem’s mother submitted a written representation to the Advisory Board of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act No. 48 of 1979 (PTA) for his immediate release. 

On 25 August, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa appointed an Advisory Board under Article 13 of the PTA. According to Presidential Secretariat Director General – Legal Affairs and senior Attorney-at-Law Harigupta Rohanadeera, the Advisory Board is due to provide recommendations on 46 detainees and remand prisoners.