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Sending protesting public for quarantine having chilling effect on freedom to dissent

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The National Peace Council (NPC) says sending protesting political and civil society activists for quarantine has a chilling effect on the freedom to dissent which is fundamental to democracy. The NPC has sent us the following statement on the recent crackdown on public protests: “Several protests by different political parties and civil society groups on grievances facing different sectors of society have been broken up by the police.  The latest was the breakup by police of a peaceful public protest by a civil society group including Joseph Stalin, head of the Ceylon Teachers Union.  The protestors, including elderly women and religious clergy, were arrested by the police on grounds of violating Covid health guidelines. When the judge refused to send them to a distant COVID quarantine center, the police forcibly carried them off to be transported to an Army camp in the North. 

“Similar undemocratic actions have been used to quell other protests too, such as those against the ban on chemical fertilisers which is threatening to destroy small scale farmers, corporation staff protesting against failure to pay salaries and environmental activists opposing the construction of a new power plant in an environmentally fragile area.   The National Peace Council holds that the misuse of COVID health regulations to deter public protests in this manner is totally unacceptable. 

“At the base of democracy is the right of people to dissent and when they do so peacefully they need to be protected.  As stated by the Bar Association, public protest straddles three important fundamental rights in the constitution – the freedom of speech and expression, the freedom of peaceful assembly and the freedom of association. Public protests also strengthen the freedom of thought which is entrenched as a fundamental right in the constitution. Arresting and detaining persons who are exercising their peaceful right to protest and sending them to quarantine has a chilling effect on the freedom to dissent which is fundamental to democracy.  

The National Peace Council welcomes the government’s willingness to address the issue of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) in response to the threat of withdrawal of the GSP Plus tariff concession.  However, it needs to be understood that the 27 international agreements that Sri Lanka has ratified and needs to implement for purposes of the GSP Plus are wide ranging and include human rights, labour rights, environmental protection and also governance, including corruption.  In terms of these agreements, civil society groups, such as the Ceylon Teachers Union play an important watchdog role which needs to be respected.  Fundamental to all these is the right to express dissent in whichever legal form they choose and denial of this right is a serious violation of Fundamental Rights to which every citizen is entitled.”



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Shocking 17,500 video clips of Lankan children being sexually abused

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By Norman Palihawadane

There were over 17,500 video clips of Sri Lankan children being sexually abused, on the Internet and action had been taken to arrest those responsible, Police Spokesman Senior DIG Ajith Rohana said yesterday. The Sri Lanka Police had sought the assistance of international law enforcement agencies and the Internet service providers to track down the persons involved in uploading those video clips and child sex trafficking via internet, the SDIG said.

Crimes against children in Sri Lanka were rising at an alarming speed, the SDIG said.

The police would conduct a special awareness programme together with the National Child Protection Authority to curb the alarming trend, he said.

The first programme was held recently in Nuwara Eliya where it especially focused apprising police officers attached to that Division.

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Private buses to insist that inter-provincial commuters carry proof of vaccination?

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

A limited number of Sri Lanka Transport Board (SLTB) and National Transport Commission (NTC) buses and trains would maintain limited inter- provincial operation from 01 August, State Minister of Transport, Dilum Amunugma said.

The State Minister said that certified documents issued by the respective depot superintendents and the letters of approval by the NTC were mandatory, he added.

“The buses and trains will be permitted to operate only in the morning and in the evening for office workers,” Amunugma said.

The State Minister added that passengers should behave responsibly when using the inter-provincial transport services and understand that those services were only for commuters engaged in essential services.

“The Delta variant is spreading rapidly. If one infected passenger travels in a bus, all other commuters will contract it” he warned.

The Lanka Private Bus Owners’ Association (LPBOA) has decided to make proof of vaccination compulsory for inter provincial travel from 01 August

LPBOA President Gemunu Wijeratne said they had written to the President and Transport Minister asking for permission to enforce it.

Wijeratne said that all bus operators in the Western Province should ensure they were inoculated by August 15.

 

 

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TNA Leader complains against appointing Sinhala officers to Tamil areas

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By Dinasena Ratugamage

Tamil National Alliance (TNA) Leader, R. Sampanthan had written to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister, Mahinda Rajapaksa, objecting to the appointment of Sinhala government officers to the Northern Province, former TNA MP Mavai Senathirajah told journalists on Wednesday (28.)

The President and the Prime Minister are appointing officials violating democratic principles, Senathirajah said after a meeting of party activists at Karachchi Divisional Secretariat Office, Kilinochchi.

“A lot of Sinhalese are appointed to the North and the East. They must appoint Tamils. These appointments undermine our struggle for a just language policy,” he said.

Senathirajah said that it was customary to appoint Tamil officers to Tamil majority areas. However, this tradition was being violated increasingly in recent times, the former MP said.

“The TNA has nothing against Sinhala government officers. However, appointing Sinhala state officers to majority Tamil areas is a great injustice to the people. So, our leader has written to the President and the Prime Minister asking them to stop this practice,” he said.

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