ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lankan protestors said they had called for emergency rule to be lifted and reasons for public protests to be found instead of arresting key activists and putting them behind bars.
President Ranil Wickremesinghe met with several representatives from GotaGoGama on Friday (05) to listen to their demands.
The protest group Black Cap Movement called for a “commission to find the causes for the 2022 people’s uprising.”
All groups had requested that the President lift the State of Emergency imposed on the island, but the President had not agreed.
“[Wickremesinghe] said until the crisis is sorted, Emergency Laws have to be there,” Buddhi Karunaratne of the Black Cap Movement said.
“He can use the Emergency Law to bypass certain laws in Sri Lanka. It’s not very democratic, but that’s what he said.”
Arrests and surveillance are still continuing, protestors said as calls were made to lift the emergency rules.
“On his side, he said under the present situation he cannot lift the Emergency Law, because then if he has to make new laws it will take him time,” said Samith Bodhipaksa of the Sarwapakshika Aragalakaruwo group.
“The President is publicly saying not to make arbitrary arrests, but even now police are going into people’s houses,” Bodhipaksa said.
Several key protestors have been taken into custody, including Joseph Stalin, the secretary of the Sri Lanka Teachers’ Union. Several political parties who met the President on Friday also raised the matter with the President.
Several protestors told EconomyNext that they were not going back to their hometown, as police were questioning their families.
The Sarwapakshika group had requested the Government cease action against protestors.
Some had been arrested for defying a court order to vacate the GotaGoGama area, while others were also charged for damaging public property because they toppled police barriers.
Sri Lanka has arrested protestors for acts like sitting in a chair of the Presidential Palace after storming the building earlier this month. Authorities have also called for public support in identifying the less well-known protestors.
“Even in the past, rioters have been granted public pardons. This is a people’s protest, and it does not require any pardons, but we are asking that the Government lift the legal action taken against people who took part in protestors,” Bodhipaksa of the Sarwapakshika Aragalakaruwo said.
“Just because someone stormed a house, toppled a barrier…held up a placard and chanted slogans…if they are illegally and arbitrarily being arrested, that is wrong.”
Western governments and Rights Groups have also called for the right of peaceful protestors to be protected.
Protestors also said there was selective implementation on the law and persons behind the attacks on peaceful protestors on May 09 are going free, while GotaGoGama protestors are being arrested on flimsy excuses.
The group Liberal Fellowship called for “swift action” during the May 09 attack, where allies of then Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa attacked peaceful protestors.
The group also called for youth engagement in governance and requested a “Cabinet that can gain the trust of the public.”
Meanwhile, the Black Cap Movement had requested that the President appoint a commission to oversee that arrests were being done within a legal and constitutional framework.
“He wasn’t very happy about the Commissions,” Karunaratne said. “He said doing so would take years, and he was very keen on taking judicial action and finishing everything off in a few months.”
President Wickremesinghe told parliament earlier in the week that he will appoint a body where people who feel they are arrested unfairly can complain to.
Bodhipaksa said that the President had promised to discuss with the Cabinet what to do regarding arrests.
The Liberal Fellowship had requested that the majority of peaceful protestors be separated from the violent minority.
Meanwhile former army General Sarath Fonseka has said that protestors in most countries are not as peaceful as those in Sri Lanka and they are protesting out of severe pressure. (Colombo/06Aug/2022)