Expressing deep concern over President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s declaration of a state of emergency, the Sri Lankan Bar Association urged him to revoke the decree while stressing that stifling public protests is not a solution to the crisis.
It comes at a time when crisis-hit Sri Lanka declared a state of emergency on Friday after crippling strikes and protests over soaring foreign debt for the second time in five weeks.
The BASL asked the president to explain the reason for his decision and asked him to ensure that the fundamental rights of the Sri Lankan people are not violated, Colombo Page reported.
The Bar Association said in its statement: “We call on His Excellency to revoke the proclamation declaring a state of emergency and ensure that the basic rights of the people, such as freedom of expression, including freedom of expression and publication, and the freedom of peaceful assembly which are aspects of the sovereignty of the people are respected and protected and are not violated by the State or its agents”.
The Association assured Sri Lankans that their fundamental rights were respected and protected. However, he also called on the people to remain calm and hold protests peacefully. The association also said it would help anyone whose rights were violated.
“The BASL believes that the right to demonstrate and the right to dissent are important aspects of the fundamental rights of the people, including freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly. These rights are of course subject to the restrictions set out in l 15 of the Constitution, including in the interest of public order. Any restrictions imposed by law on these rights must be proportionate and reasonable. We reaffirm that a state of emergency must not be used to stifle peaceful protests and dissent or to carry out arbitrary arrests and detentions. Demonstrations, in turn, must not be violent and must remain peaceful at all times,” the statement said.
Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Thursday declared a state of emergency citing “public safety and the protection of public order and for the maintenance of supplies and services essential to the life of the community”. It entered into force on May 6 at midnight.
The move comes after massive protests across the island nation demanding the resignation of President Rajapaksa and the entire government amid the economic crisis in the country. The first state of emergency was declared on April 1, 2022.
Previously, the unions had organized a national strike to demand his resignation in the face of the crisis. More than 2,000 unions took part in a national hartal and strike against the president, prime minister and government.
Before the imposition of the emergency, the president in a special meeting asked Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa to step down from power as a solution to the ongoing political crisis in the country.
During a special meeting between the President and Cabinet Ministers, Prime Minister Rajapaksa said that if the new government solves the economic crisis and can provide an immediate solution, then he will give his blessing to the new government.
Sri Lanka is grappling with severe food and power shortages, forcing the country to seek help from its neighbours. The recession is attributed to currency shortages caused by the clampdown on tourism during the COVID-19 pandemic. The country is unable to buy enough fuel and gas, while the population is also deprived of basic amenities.
The economic situation has led to huge protests with demands for the resignation of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
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