RIGHT TO PEACEFUL PROTEST IS AT THE HEART OF DEMOCRACY
The swearing in of the new cabinet of ministers by the new president took place in the midst of chaos earlier in the day. Shortly past midnight the protest site that was instrumental in forcing a change of government and was peaceful at the dead of night was forcefully cleared by the military and police perhaps for that event. By this action the new government has risked alienating itself from significant sections of the local and international communities. The past 104 days in which the protest site was in existence saw tens of thousands of people visit it from all parts of the country and all walks of life to demonstrate their solidarity and take part in direct protest as and when they felt it warranted.
The National Peace Council expresses its anguish and disappointment at this turn of events. The brutal attack on the peaceful and helpless protestors are a negation of the ideals and aspirations that the protest movement has been standing for, and which led to the resignation of the former president, prime minister and cabinet of ministers and paved the way to a new president, prime minister and cabinet of ministers. We condemn the manner in which the security forces dealt with the protestors, cordoning off the area prior to moving in, even going to the extent of blocking the entry of medical personnel and ambulances into the site where protestors, media and lawyers alike were being subjected to physical assault.
We believe that the present government that has come to power due to this protest movement should have negotiated with the protestors rather than clear them out with batons. It was known that the protestors were to leave the Presidential premises at around 2 pm in any event. In addition, they had stated that they have made arrangements to hand over the occupied premises by afternoon. It is in such time the government led forces acted to clear the protest site in the early hours of the morning.
NPC calls on the government to protect the democratic right of protest of the people which is at the heart of democracy. Failure to do so could lead to the beginning of a new wave, (another meaning of the word Aragalaya), of protests with an uncertain conclusion. In order to access financial support from the IMF and the international community, the government has to show evidence of good governance and political stability. These include, most importantly, winning the trust and confidence of the people by being consensus oriented, equitable and inclusive, being accountable and respecting the Rule of Law.
It is the responsibility of the new government to lead by its example at this time of economic collapse. NPC renews our call for the appointment of an all-party government alluded to by the new president in his victory speech when he invited the opposition leaders to join the government, actions to resolve the economic crisis, bringing in the 21st Amendment to strengthen institutions of governance and accountability, elections in six months for parliament and provincial councils and a referendum on the abolition of the executive presidency as previously agreed to. It is this change of culture we seek in the larger interest of the country.
The National Peace Council is an independent and non partisan organization that works towards a negotiated political solution to the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. It has a vision of a peaceful and prosperous Sri Lanka in which the freedom, human rights and democratic rights of all the communities are respected. The policy of the National Peace Council is determined by its Governing Council of 20 members who are drawn from diverse walks of life and belong to all the main ethnic and religious communities in the country.
National Peace Council
of Sri Lanka