Troops break up GoHomeGota protest

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A group of anti-Government protesters involved in a peaceful demonstration on Galle Fort rampart were disrupted by military personnel yesterday (30 June).

As the second day of the first Test match between Australia and Sri Lanka was delayed due to adverse weather, a group of protesters started chanting anti-Government slogans including ‘Go Home Gota’ on the city side of the Galle Fort rampart overlooking the Galle stadium when they were removed by military personnel.

The protesters strongly confronted the military personnel who tried to grab their placards, asking how the military can interfere with civilians in that manner.

A similar incident took place on Tuesday, 28 June when the Police removed another group of anti-Government protesters on the opposite side of the Galle Fort rampart.

However, a larger group of protesters returned to the site in the evening around 5.00 p.m. with several placards and bigger banner which said ‘Go Home Gota – Ranil’.

Meanwhile, the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) opposed the removal of protesters noting that there is no lawful reason to disperse protesters as the said location is a public area. In a letter to the Commander of the Army Lt General Vikum Liyanage and IGP C.D. Wickremaratne, BASL observed that the Police and armed forces should not be used to stifle peaceful protests.

Further, BASL observed that the alleged involvement of Army personnel to remove the protesters is also of grave concern and that such involvement is not in accordance with the law.  “The suppression of the people’s right to protest and dissent is not the answer to the present situation in the country where the people are facing untold hardships due to shortages of fuel and other essentials. We re-iterate that the Police and the armed forces should not be used to stifle peaceful protests and dissent,’’ the letter noted.

A group of lawyers in Galle yesterday lodged a complaint with the Galle Police against the Commandant of the Galle Fort Army Camp, its officers and soldiers on charges of intimidating, threatening and causing a hindrance to the peaceful protest. The lawyers charged that the Commandant of the Army Camp, its officers and soldiers had also forcibly taken away banners, posters and placards displayed during the demonstration.

By Anjana Kaluarachchi in Galle, Faadhila Thassim and Farhan Nizamdeen (Galle)