Colombo Additional Magistrate Keminda Perera, yesterday (7), rejected the request made by Colombo Fort Police, seeking an order preventing protesters from entering the vicinity of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s residence today (8) and Saturday (9).
The Attorney General’s Department, making submissions to Court, said the protest could result in turmoil and the protesters could block roads, which would in turn affect the country’s economy.
It was also said protests could result in foreigners leaving Sri Lanka, further affecting the economy, while observing that 53 individuals have been identified as organisers of the protests, noting that if the protests are directed to the vicinity of the President’s residence, it could result in a serious problem and a possible riot. The Attorney General and the Colombo Fort Police, citing the said factors, sought an order restricting protesters from entering the byroads in the vicinity of Rajapaksa’s residence. Saliya Pieris PC, Nuwan Bopage, and Jayantha Dehiattha appeared on behalf of the protesters and observed that the right to protest has been guaranteed to the public by the Constitution, adding however that the Police have repeatedly attempted to interfere with such right.
They observed that a considerable number of foreigners have already left the country due to the persistent economic crisis and that it is incorrect to state that the protests will prompt foreigners to leave the country. Following submissions of both parties, the Magistrate, quoting the ‘Jana Gosha’ case, observed that the public is entitled to the right to hold peaceful protests. The Magistrate further said in the event of any commotion, the Police is vested with the authority to control such situation, while stating that foreigners have already left the country due to the economic crisis and power cuts, while dismissing the request.
By Hansi Nanayakkara