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Thursday, June 8, 2023

Sri Lanka BASL urges police, army chiefs to ensure freedom of expression after arrest, disruptions

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ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Bar Association (BASL) expressing its displeasure over the actions of police and army wrote to the both Inspector General of Police (IGP) and army chief asked to ensure that the fundamental rights of the people.

A Video shared in social media showed a man in army uniform surrounded by another two in uniform was trying to snatch the placards from the protesters in Galle Fort where Sri Lanka cricket team is playing its first test against Australia. The protesters demanded President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to resign.

“We reminded the Army Commander and the IGP of the wisdom of the judgement of the SC in the Janagosha Case,” BASL chief Pieris tweeted referring to a 1993 case in which the court held that the fundamental right of the petitioner under the constitution was infringed, and awarded him compensation in the sum of Rs. 50,000 payable by the State.

“It is prudent for the authorities including the Army Commander and the IGP to remember these words from the Jana Ghosha Case: “Stifling the peaceful expression of legitimate dissent today can only result, inexorably, in the catastrophic explosion of violence some other day,” Pieris said.

The anti-government protestors had brought placards, boards and signs demanding the President to step down near the Galle International Cricket stadium and had displayed banners at Fort which overlooked the stadium. The placards were removed promptly and political analysts cited the move was to prevent a bad international publicity for President Rajapaksa.

“We call upon you to ensure that the fundamental rights of the people such as the freedom of expression including the freedom of speech and publication and the freedom of peaceful assembly which are aspects of the sovereignty of the people are respected and protected,” the BASL said in its statement to the police and army chief.

“It has also been drawn to our attention that the particular area of the ramparts of the Galle Fort are public areas and hence that there is no lawful reason to disperse protestors. We continue to remind you of the importance of allowing people to exercise their freedom of speech and expression including their right to dissent.”

The BASL has repeatedly noted infringement of fundamental rights by police and military since the youth-led anti-government protests started. The latest one is the fifth statement issued by the BASL urging Sri Lankan authorities and armed forces to allow citizens to express their economic grief and difficulties, as it is a fundamental human right.

“The suppression of the people’s right to protest and dissent is not the answer to the present situation in the country where the people are facing untold hardships due to shortages of fuel and other essentials,” the BASL further said.

“We are also concerned of reports that Sri Lanka Army personnel had also been involved in removing the protestors. Such involvement by Army personnel is not in accordance with the law.”

According to Police, six individuals had been arrested on Wednesday (29) for staging a protest outside the official residence of the President when the protest was carried out by group named United National Self-Employed Businessmen’s Association. (Colombo/June 30/2022)

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