ECONOMYNEXT – A group of lawyers in Sri Lanka have signed a declaration to step in and support the popular ‘Aragalaya’ (Struggle) protesters who the lawyers alleged are being “hunted” on the grounds of rule of law by new President Ranil Wickremesinghe.
At a conference held in Colombo on Thursday August 09 titled “The Manifesto of the People’s Struggle vs the Government’s Repressive Mechanism”, a group of lawyers including a number of president’s counsels signed a declaration to appear for the “victims”, provide relief to them and work with institutions such as the Human Rights Commission.
“We have elected some of the biggest crooks and rogues. We have made national heroes out of common criminals. We are to blame and it is time we changed it. That’s what the Aragalaya stood for. It asks for a united country without division of any sort,” President’s Counsel Geoffrey Alagaratnam said.
“True. Today the Aragalya might seem to be a little confused. It is up to the lawyers to give it direction.”
“…Even under the Rajapaksa regime, the emergency regulations were promulgated, and they were withdrawn. Today there does not seem to be a need for an emergency, but it is declared and people are prosecuted for sitting on chairs or sleeping on flags.
“But people who went out and attacked [protestors] with clubs are safe and that is where there needs to be more agitation from lawyers; not violent protests,” said Alagaratnam.
He said as lawyers it is their service to society.
The lawyers gathered at the event said they want to work towards four key objectives –
I – To represent the “victims” in legal action taken against them with an alleged view to repressing their rights.
II – To establish a database on those victimised by the “repressive machinery of the government”
III – To establish a centre to provide relief for the victims of the above mentioned repressive measures
IV – In addition to appearing in courts, the lawyers agree to coordinate with constitutionally established state institutions like the Human Rights Commission and the Police Commission.
The lawyers also said since the new president came into power, 44 persons who took part in the protest have been arrested within 14 days.
Speaking at the event TNA MP M A Sumanthiran who was appointed President’s Counsel (PC) in 2017 said: “The Bar Association is conscious of its role and now we are into a phase where this state repression is entering its second phase. It is going to be insidious.”
Sumanthiran claimed that Wickremesinghe, who has been in politics for decades and has missed several opportunities to become president would never have achieved his goal if not for the protests.
“Wickremesinghe would never have become president if not for the Aragalaya and as long as that was achieved the Aragalaya was good for him.”
The TNA MP also warned the lawyers that there will only be more protests springing up as the economic crisis worsens. (Colombo/Aug05/2022)