Issuing a statement 45 Trade Unions and Civil Society organisation is calling for joint action to face the ongoing suppression of right to protest by the Rajapaksa government.
The statement says that “suppression campaigns against the violation of peoples’ right to protest using the health guidelines issued to control the covid pandemic by the Director General of Health is a serious matter. In doing so the police is seriously violating the quarantine guidelines issued by the Director General of Health.
It is also a matter of serious concern that these quarantine laws are not applied to the affairs of the government and activities by those close to the government. There have been many such examples in the past that confirm that law enforcement is arbitrary and partial.”
The signatories to the statement says the people must rally to defeat the rapidly growing anti-democratic actions of the present government, to protect the freedom of expression rights and protection of fundamental rights of the people as a whole.”
The statement further suggest that all political parties, trade unions and mass organizations should unite and take the lead in organizing a protest without delay, regardless of differences.
The statement further says that
“Although there is a need to enforce the quarantine law to control the Covid19 epidemic, using the same law by the Sri Lankan police to violate people’s right to free expression and criticize the government’s arbitrary actions is by no means an acceptable form of democracy in any country.
After the outbreak of the epidemic in March 2020, the government have used the quarantine law as a repressive law to suppress the dissenting views of the people.
The purpose of all these campaigns was to protest against the government’s failure to intervene in issues affecting the people and the decisions taken by the government to aggravate those issues.
The right to freedom of expression is a fundamental right enshrined in the Constitution of Sri Lanka, and a number of Supreme Court rulings have affirmed that citizens have the right to criticize the government.
Article 14 (1) (a) of the Constitution of our country states:
‘Every citizen has the right to freedom of speech and expression, including the right to freedom of expression. ‘
In his judgment that criticizing the actions of the state is also an acceptable act under freedom of speech. Judge Mark Fernando stated in the judgment of Wijeratne v. Perera (SC / FR / 379/93) :
‘Those who begin coercive elimination of dissent soon find themselves exterminating dissenters. Compulsory unification of opinion achieves only the unanimity of grave yard. It seems trite but necessary to say that the first amendment was designed to avoid these ends by avoid these ends by avoiding these beginnings.’
As the judge noted, if an attempt is made to suppress the opposing views by force, the process will end in serious loss of life.
Currently, the suppression of protests of the people is a serious matter, using the guidelines issued by the Director General of Health in accordance with the quarantine law to control the epidemic. In this case, the quarantine guidelines issued by the Director General of Health by the Sri Lanka Police are being seriously violated.
It is also a matter of serious concern that the implementation of these quarantine laws is not seen in the affairs of the government and in the personal affairs of those close to the government. There have been many such examples in the past that confirm that law enforcement is arbitrary and impartial.
We, the signatories below, believe that the people must rally to defeat the rapidly growing anti-democratic actions of the present government and to protect the democratic freedom of expression and protection of fundamental rights of the people as a whole. We further suggest that all political parties, trade unions and mass organizations should unite and take the lead in staging a speedy protest, regardless of differences.”
Translated from original Sinhala language statement.