Colombo Chief Magistrate tells police not to misuse COVID-19 pandemic to suppress protests
Colombo Chief Magistrate Buddhika Sri Ragala has informed Cinnamon Gardens Police that as the Constitution has granted the freedom for masses to be engaged in protests, demonstrations and freedom of expression, any effort made to suppress that right using the COVID-19 pandemic as a ruse, could bring the country and the Government into disrepute in the eyes of the public.
The Chief Magistrate made this remark having dismissed a request made to him by Police urging him to issue an order of injunction preventing the staging of a protest which was held opposite the UGCSL yesterday by the People’s Intelligence Circle (PIC) against the proposed Kotelawala National Defence University Bill (KNDU).
Cinnamon Gardens Police, making submissions before Chief Magistrate Ragala, stated that they had received information that the PIC, headed by Prof. J. N. Ananda Jayawickrema, had planned to hold a demonstration opposite the UGCSL premises today (02) against the KNDU Bill mooted by the Government.
Hence the Police requested the Court to issue an order to prevent the demonstration from going ahead as it was being planned to be held flouting the quarantine regulations put forth by the health authorities to prevent an upsurge of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Accordingly, the Court stated that if any person or persons are carrying out actions violating the health guidelines put forth by the Director General of Health Services to prevent the spread of COVID-19, then the Police have the right to arrest such persons and prosecute them accordingly.
But, he insisted that the pandemic should not be used as a ruse to suppress the rights of the public to engage in peaceful protests and express dissent as it has been enshrined in the Constitution.