Colombo April 2 (newsin.asia): In the evening of Friday, the Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, issued an Extraordinary Gazette declaring a Public Emergency in Sri Lanka with effect from April 01. The President’s Media Division said that the gazette was issued “considering the prevailing situation in the country and in the interests of public security, the protection of public order and the maintenance of supplies and services essential to the life of the community.”
Gotabaya Rajapaksa issued the gazette under the powers vested in him by Section 2 of the Public Security Ordinance (Chapter 40), as amended by Act. No. 8 of 1959. Law No. 6 of 1978 and Act, No.28 of 1988, the PMD said.
According to the Colombo-based think tank, Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA), Section 2 of the Public Security Ordinance (PSO) empowers the President to declare a State of Emergency in two situations: 1) in the interest of public security and the preservation of public order, or 2) for the maintenance of supplies and services essential to the life of the community.
The CPA notes that regardless of the reason for the declaration of a State of Emergency, once such a declaration is made it gives the President wide powers with only limited checks and balances. Actually, the President can promulgate Emergency Regulations dealing with any subject at any given time.
“Considering Sri Lanka’s history with emergency, other security related laws and legacy of repression, this raises serious concerns. The implementation of the present regulation and possible future steps require close attention,” the CPA has said.
Rights Body Protests
The Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) retired Supreme Court Justice Rohini Marasinghe said on April 1, that those arrested over Thursday’s protest outside President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s private residence at Mirihana could not be charged under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).
Acting Director, Research and Monitoring Nihal Chandrasiri quoted Justice Marasinghe as having told the HRCSL staff that those who had been arrested should be charged under the Public Property Act (PPA) No 12 of 1982 and not the PTA.
Chandrasiri told The Island that the HRCSL would be visiting the detainees on Friday (April 1) and Saturday. The HRCSL’s position would be made known to law enforcement authorities, he added.
The Public Emergency was imposed on April 1, following unusually violent incidents in front of President Gotabaya’s private residence in Mirihana outside Colombo on Thursday night. The mob burnt a bus, a very unusual thing in Sri Lanka, where protests are normally non-violent. Several people including policemen were injured. Police arrested 54 persons, including a female.
Senior Police Spokesman senior DIG Ajith Rohana said that the protest which commenced on Thursday evening was peaceful for over four hours, but some elements in the crowd had later turned violent and had caused damage to vehicles and property. Five Policemen were also injured in the incident.
Rohana added that the investigations are being carried out with the support of the Police Scene of Crime Officers (SOCO) and the Police Criminal Records Division through all the available evidence including CCTV footage in the area.
“Through these investigations it is expected to reveal if there is an involvement by outsiders to provoke the protesters who were behaving peacefully for about four hours since the evening,” he said.
The government is blaming “extremists” for the violence, but is still to identify the extremists.
Mainstream Parties Dissociate
Sri Lanka’s mainstream opposition political parties have called upon their cadres not to indulge in violence. The United National Party (UNP) and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) have said that they will not be joining any protests organized by “anonymous” groups.
The JVP General Secretary Tylvin Silva warned party supporters to be aware of unorganized protests that have no responsible organizer. He said the JVP will never try to seek petty political mileage out of such efforts. The UNP Deputy Leader Akila Viraj Kariyawasam stated that the Party will not take part in any protests organized by anonymous groups. He was speaking at a media briefing held at the Sirikotha party headquarters on March 31. He emphasized that the UNP, as a responsible political party, will not support efforts to provoke the people. He said the UNP is committed to continuing its Satyagraha campaign across the country.
Wickremesinghe Blames Both Govt and Opposition
The UNP Leader, Ranil Wickremesinghe, has said that both the government and the Opposition have failed to fulfill their responsibilities.
“The Government has failed to solve the problems that are plaguing the citizens of Sri Lanka. The Opposition has also failed to uphold its responsibility,” he said.
Wickremesinghe opined that a demonstration erupted at Mirihana as there has been no solution provided to the problems faced by the citizens. “This incident can be described as a result of the collapse of the current political structure,” he said in a statement. The Government has failed to solve the problems that are plaguing the people. And the Opposition has also failed to fulfill its responsibility.
Avoid Racist Comments
“The Government is blaming various groups for the incident, but they must present evidence to support these claims. It must also reveal who is behind the violence, while refraining from making any racist comments. This was not a racist incident. This was not a terrorist incident. Such comments would only exacerbate the already volatile situation. The protests that took place at Jubilee Post were peaceful, however, at Pangiriwatta that situation changed,” Wickremesinghe said.
Some reports suggested that a minority community had instigated the violence.
“I express different views on this. We must remember one thing. No one should be harmed in a peaceful protest. Violence must not be tolerated. But people have the right to protest freely and peacefully. Political parties should not take part in these citizen led protests. But, political parties have the right to hold their own meetings and protests,” Wickremesinghe said in his statement.
Plagued by Shortages
Meanwhile, the diesel shortage, and food shortages, continue in Sri Lanka. Thirteen-hour power cuts on a daily basis are tormenting the people. The diesel shortage has hampered trade and transport.
India and China have announced a total loan of almost US$ 5 billion. But the people see no difference in their lives. The forex shortage continues to hamper essential imports.