South Asians for Human Rights vehemently condemns the suppression of the protest led by the Inter University Students’ Federation (IUSF) on 18 October, by the police. The police personnel in large numbers blocked the Colombo – Kandy main road preventing the protesters from marching on the road.
IUSF organised this protest at the University of Kelaniya to mark the 60 days since the detention of the student leaders, Wasantha Mudalige and Rev. Galwewa Siridhamma under the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act (PTA) and to demand the release of all who have been arrested for being involved in the ‘aragalaya’ (the struggle) that forced the previous prsident, the prime minister and the minister of finance to resign from their positions. At the same time this protest had been organised to emphasise the unbearable cost of living, the state repression of dissent and restrictions of freedoms of expression and association which are crucial for the sustenance of democratic values. SAHR also learns that the police deliberately refrained from disclosing the whereabouts of the 8 student protesters from the lawyers and the media personnel, upon arresting them.
The government led by President Ranil Wickremesinghe has been persistently harassing, assaulting and intimidating those who join protests. In the previous IUSF led protest that took place on 18 August 16 protesters were arrested and later released on bail, excluding the IUSF convener Wasantha Mudalige, Rev.Siridhamma and an IUSF member Hasan Jeewantha who were detained by CID under the PTA. President Wickremesinghe has signed a 90 day detention order to facilitate the CID to interrogate Mudalige and Rev. Siridhamma. Hasan Jeewantha was released on 7 October without any charges against him. `
SAHR joins the call from the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on the Freedom of Expression, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, and Amnesty International urging the Government of Sri Lanka to respect people’s freedom of expression and right to assembly. It is the duty of the law enforcement personnel to respect the rights and freedoms enshrined in the constitution of Sri Lanka and facilitate a conducive environment to conduct the peaceful assembly rather than retaliate and harrass peaceful protestors.
SAHR further calls on the government to repeal the draconian PTA which has been blatantly used to harass and intimidate protestors and stifle dissent. The government of Sri Lanka must immediately end harassment of protestors and release Wasantha Mudalige and Rev. Siridhamma. It also reiterates that the government should adhere to the international obligations of which the state is a party to.
On behalf of the members of South Asians for Human Rights
Dr. Roshmi Goswami,
Dr. P. Saravanamuttu,