International rights group Amnesty International has called for an end to the impunity on the spate of disappearances and has setup an online petition addressed to Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayake calling on the government to take urgent steps to curb the trend.
Having read the news-story in today’s Daily Mirror on Amnesty’s online petition against dissapearances, I was surprised that Amnesty’s main website had no record of this petition. A Google search alerted me to its existence on the Amnesty International USA.
This is more than a bit daft – an organisation such as Amnesty must surely realise the value of having all its output available from a central location, or at the very least, indexed in one catalogue that’s accessible through all the websites that each of its country / region offices set up. Clearly this is not the case at present, and leads to a situation where one has to visit at least two websites in order to ascertain whether Amnesty’s put out anything on Sri Lanka’s erosion of human rights.
Secondly, the online petition itself is complicated to send. You need to register first, and I never got past it to actually send the petition, managing only to repeatedly encounter this cryptic message:
Your country does not match the restrictions for this action item.
Registering also requires one to enter a US State even if resident outside the US. Given that online petitions need to be as accessible as possible, from all countries, especially from Sri Lanka, this is quite bizarre and most unfortunate.
While the petition itself can be printed out as a letter, Amnesty International USA’s approach to online petitions leaves much to be desired and is frankly tantamount to a grossly callous approach to online human rights awareness raising and (online) activism.
More interesting, and certainly very progressive, is the e-petition (to date beta) website set up by the British Prime Minister’s office. As noted on this website,
Petitioners may freely disagree with the Government or call for changes of policy. There will be no attempt to exclude critical views and decisions to accept or reject will not be made on a party political basis.
Amnesty International USA’s flawed approach to e-petitions could be inspired by what’s already out there on the web, since I don’t believe that for all their hype and hoopla of e-government in Sri Lanka, ICTA is going to follow the Downing Street model anytime soon.