BASL calls for Emergency to be revoked

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The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) called upon the Acting President Ranil Wickremesinghe to revoke the proclamation declaring a State of Emergency in a bid to ensure that Fundamental Rights of the public are upheld.

“At a time when the election to the office of President has been scheduled in Parliament, the Emergency Regulations must not be used to suppress any legitimate expression of opinion on the election of the President nor to suppress any dissent or disagreement on a particular candidate,” the BASL stated.

They reiterated that a declaration of a State of Emergency is not the answer to the present situation in the country, including the spate of public protests which have occurred resulting in the eventual resignation of the former President and that a State of Emergency must not be used to stifle peaceful protests and dissent or to make arbitrary arrests and detentions.

BASL said consequent to the declaration of a State of Emergency the Acting President is empowered to make Emergency Regulations which can override, amend or suspend the provision of any law, except the provisions of the Constitution. “Emergency Regulations could be used to detain persons bypassing the ordinary Court process. In the past, Emergency Regulations have led to many abuses on the part of the authorities which are reflected in the numerous decisions of our Courts,” BASL added.

BASL also noted that in terms of the law, any attempt to unduly influence a Member of Parliament or bribe a Member of Parliament in respect of his vote is a specific offence under the law, adding that any attempt to use any threat, undue influence, coercion or bribe to influence such vote will be illegal and should not be condoned.

“However, it must also be noted that whilst undue influence or threats are prohibited, the law does not preclude a member of the public from expressing his or her view on the election or the choice of a particular candidate or the relative merits or demerits of a candidate at the election,” they further noted. 

BASL observed this is the third time since April 2022 that a State of Emergency has been declared and that on one such occasion, it was rescinded by the President before any Regulations were made there under and on the other occasion, the Proclamation was not placed before Parliament and lapsed although Regulations, including several provisions impinging on the fundamental rights of people were published.