State of Emergency: HRCSL criticises Government decision

Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka

The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) has questioned the declaration of a countrywide State of Emergency in response to a planned protest campaign yesterday (03) against the failure on the part of the government to address the continuing shortage of essential items, including food, medicine and fuel.

Acting Director Research and Monitoring Nihal Chandrasiri yesterday (03) told The Island the HRCSL believed that the declaration had been taken without giving sufficient explanation as to what really threatened national security for the government to take such an extreme measure.

The HRCSL comprises retired Supreme Court justice Rohini Marasinghe, Ven. Kalupahana Piyarathna Thera, Dr. M.H. Nimal Karunasiri, Dr. Vijitha Nanayakkara and Ms. Anusuya Shanmuganathan.

Chandrasiri said that the HRCSL, and the senior management, following consultations regarding the incidents near President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s residence, at Pangiriwatte Road, Mirihana, felt that the government should concentrate on addressing the public grievances, instead of taking security measures.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa appointed the HRCSL in terms of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution, enacted in late October, last year.

Responding to another query, Chandrasiri explained that against the backdrop of an indefinite State of Emergency, a curfew had been imposed from 6 pm Saturday (02) to 6 am Monday (today, April 04). In addition to that, gathering at selected public places, too, had been prohibited by an extra ordinary gazette notification, Chandrasiri said.

According to Chandrasiri, the HRCSL has also expressed concern over the public being denied access to social media as part of the measures adopted by the government in the wake of the Mirihana incidents. Chandrasiri said that the HRCSL intended to meet senior representatives of the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka (TRCSL) tomorrow (05) to discuss the issue at hand. “The contentious issue here is whether the TRCSL inquired from the Defence Ministry regarding the sudden requirement to block social media platforms.”

The HRCSL raised the issue as the Chairman of Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA) Oshada Senanayake, announced his resignation. Senanayake assumed duties as Chairman of ICTA in August 2021.

TRCSL restored social media platforms at 3.30 pm following the Defence Ministry advice in that regard.

Senanayake also served as Director General of the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka (TRCSL) and resigned from that post in December 2021.

In addition to those matters, the HRCSL also decided to summon a senior police officer who had been captured on video slapping a person and those who were allegedly responsible for indiscriminate attacks on several journalists.

Immediately after the incidents at Mirihana, the HRCSL declared that it strongly opposed legal measures being taken against those who had been arrested in terms of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). Justice Marasinghe said that they should be prosecuted under the Public Property Act, if at all.

Police headquarters Friday said that the arrested persons would be produced in court in terms of the Public Property Act and the Penal Code. Of 47 persons taken into custody, 32 had been remanded till Monday (04) and the rest granted bail.

Police said that of the 47 taken in, 21 persons produced before the Gangodawila Magistrate, on Friday, 15 had been granted bail and six remanded till Monday. The other 26 persons, warded at the Kalubowila Teaching and Colombo National Hospitals, and were remanded by a Magistrate after visiting them.

(Source: The Island – By Shamindra Ferdinando)