Following a three-day saga of military personnel disrupting peaceful anti-Government protests, staged on the Galle Fort ramparts, a group of over 100 lawyers, who gathered before the ramparts to express their displeasure over the act of hindrance, were also obstructed on 1 Friday.

The group of lawyers, together with locals, later staged an anti-Government protest in Galle whilst calling for an end to the violation of the freedom of expression.

They noted that protests staged at the Galle Fort ramparts  had been obstructed on three consecutive days on the basis that the area has been declared a safety zone, adding that there is no legal basis for such reasoning and that no Court order has been obtained to obstruct protesters.

They further said a complaint will be lodged with the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) while a Fundamental Rights (FR) petition will also be filed against the Police officers who disrupted them on Friday (1).

Previously, protesters also strongly confronted the military personnel, who tried to grab the placards, asking how military can interfere with civilians in such a manner. Meanwhile, a Fundamental Rights petition was filed by a group of lawyers at the Supreme Court on Friday (1) against the disruption of protests, on 30 June on the Galle Fort ramparts, by lawyers, civil society activists and locals by forcibly grabbing their placards and banners and threatening them to leave.

As the second day of the first Test match between Australia and Sri Lanka on Thursday (30 June) was delayed due to the adverse weather, a group of protesters started chanting anti-Government slogans including ‘Go home Gota’ on the city side of the Galle Fort ramparts overlooking the Galle stadium when they were removed by military personnel.

The petitioners noted the said protest did not cause any disturbance whatsoever to the cricket match, to its spectators or other tourists visiting the Galle Fort. They further said the protesters were verbally abused and threatened by officers of the Sri Lanka Army in the presence of the Police officers, and thus the said conduct of the officers amount to an infringement of the freedom from torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment as guaranteed to them by Article 11 of the Constitution.

The Petitioners stated that the use of Army personnel to disrupt peaceful protests protected by the law, is an infringement of the right to equality and the equal protection of the law as guaranteed by Article 12(1) of the Constitution.

‘’The conduct of the military personnel in such a manner amounts to disgraceful and dishonorable conduct and is damaging to the reputation of the reputation of the Sri Lanka Army and outside its scope and ambit and should not be permitted,” the petitioners noted.

Among other relief sought, petitioners sought for compensation of Rs 5,000,000 payable by one or more or all of the Respondents.

Further, the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) also opposed the removal of protesters noting that there is no lawful reason to disperse protesters as the said location is a public area.

By Faadhila Thassim