Tissa has been named a Prisoner of Conscience by Amnesty International who believes that he has been imprisoned for simply carrying out his journalist activities. Tissa has become an emblematic case for what has become the fate of many journalists and media workers in Sri Lanka held under sweeping terrorist legislation.
Without independent media coverage in Sri Lanka the international community are not able to get a true picture of what is happening to civilians caught up in the civil war. 150000 civilians are presently displaced by the war, and are living without adequate food, sanitation or shelter.
The Vigil began with a poem written after Tissa incarceration by Tissa’s teacher, Jean Arasanayagam:
I speak for all humanity
Who will speak for me?
There’s a resounding silence
When there should be speech
Stones fill the mouth
Weigh down the tongue
Stones of oppression
Stones of fear and terror
A blow from an iron fist
Split the sealed lips
Revealing a grimace of pain
You spit out words
Like broken teeth from your confessional
Words compelled by torture
Wrapped in a glittering foil of blood
Each word sent a tingle down my spine and, to those attending, was a reality check of the challenges journalists and media workers are faced with for simply trying to tell the truth.
The vigil’s message was for Tissa’s immediate and unconditional release and this message got widespread press coverage.