17 October, 2021

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BASL Condemns Arrest And Forced Quarantining Of Peaceful Protesters

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka has reacted strongly to the arrest of people engaged in peaceful protests and forced detention in quarantine centres.

Writing to the Director General of Health Services and Inspector General of Police the BASL said: “In certain instances, after such protesters are released on bail by the Magistrates before whom they were produced, they have been taken away against their will to quarantine centres by Police officers, sometimes without even informing them or their families of where they were being taken.”

“The BASL is also concerned of the excessive force used by the Police in dealing with the protestors and has expressed its concern with regard to the use of excessive force by the Police on numerous occasions previously.”

Photo courtesy Lalith Perera

We publish below the Bar Association letter in full:

Dr. Asela Gunewardena,

Director General of Health Services,

Department of Health Services,

Colombo 10.

Mr. Chandana Wickremeratne,

Inspector General of Police,

Police Headquaters,

Colombo 01.

ARREST AND QUARANTINING OF PERSONS ENGAGED IN PEACEFUL PROTESTS

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) expresses its grave concern at the arrests and detention of protestors by the Sri Lanka Police ostensibly for violating Health Regulations relating to COVID-19.

These arrests have occurred subsequent to a Press Release by the Police Media Division bearing Reference No. PMD/PR/845/21 dated 06-07-2021 which purports to convey an extract from a letter bearing Reference No. DDG(PHS)1/DO2/7/13/2017/20 sent by the Director General of Health Services to the Police. The date on which the said letter of the Director General of Health Services had been issued has not been disclosed.

During the past few days the Sri Lanka Police has carried out a number of arrests of persons engaged in peaceful protests on different issues and produced them before courts of law.

Public protests straddle three important Fundamental Rights in the Constitution namely the Freedom of Speech and Expression, the Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and the Freedom of Association guaranteed by Articles 14(1)(a), (b) and (c) of the Constitution. Public protests also strengthen the Freedom of Thought which is entrenched as a Fundamental Right by Article 10 of the Constitution. The rights under Article 14(1) may be restricted by law in the interests of public health, however, such restriction must be done by law; must have a nexus to the objective sought to be achieved and must be reasonable.

The BASL has carefully perused the Health Guidelines issued by the Director General of Health Services. The said Guidelines permit several indoor and outdoor activities. These include inter alia the operation of spas, supermarkets and restaurants. They also allow the opening of liquor shops and also permit exercise and jogging outdoors. The said Guidelines have not listed public protests or outdoor meetings as prohibited activities.

However, by the said Press Release issued by the Police Media Division the media has been informed that the Inspector General of Police has received a communication from the Director General Health Services that public meetings and protests involving mass gatherings should not be permitted due to the risk of the spread of COVID-19. It is noted that the even the contents of the said Press Release do not contemplate a total prohibition of meetings and protests but only seeks to prevent meetings and protests involving a mass gathering of people (මහජනතාව විශාල වශයෙන් ඒකරාශී වන). As such, meetings and protests which are carried out in compliance with Health Guidelines are not prohibited.

The BASL is firmly of the view that any organized protests should be carried out in a manner that it does not pose a risk to public health and that persons who intend to participate in protests or marches or similar exercises must ensure that they conform to health guidelines in their own interest and in the interests of the general public. However, at a time the Director General of Health Services has thought it fit to ease restrictions previously imposed, the BASL sees no reasonable cause whatsoever for the Police to act in a heavy-handed manner when dealing with protesters.

In certain instances, after such protesters are released on bail by the Magistrates before whom they were produced, they have been taken away against their will to quarantine centres by Police officers, sometimes without even informing them or their families of where they were being taken.

The BASL has taken note of several instances and is deeply concerned as to how individuals after having been granted bail have been forcibly seized from the precincts of the courthouses and sent to quarantine against their will. There is scant evidence that such decisions were based on the advice of health officials such as Public Health Inspectors. Compounding these concerns are the fact that by now even persons infected with COVID-19 and their first contacts are being quarantined at their respective homes or hotel, rather than being taken to Quarantine Centres. Your attention is drawn to the Regulations made by the Hon. Minister of Health published in Gazette Extraordinary No. 2197/25 dated October 15, 2020 which is applicable to COVID-19. In terms of Regulation 91 of the said Regulations:

“It shall be lawful for the proper authority in any diseased locality in relation to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) to –

a) restrict the movement of persons;

b) take or require any person to take a diseased person or a person suspected to be diseased to a hospital, place of observation or quarantine centre for treatment or quarantine purpose; or

c) direct any person suspected to be a diseased to be self-quarantined in his house, premises or place of residence for a period not exceeding the incubation period as may be determined by the proper authority for the whole of Sri Lanka.

As such quarantining has necessarily to relate to a person who has contracted the disease or is suspected to have contracted the disease and to no other. Clearly, quarantine is a health precaution and should not be used as a punishment or mode of detention.

The aforesaid acts of forced detention in quarantine centres are arbitrary and unlawful are an affront to the judiciary who have released the said persons on bail. Such arrests and forcible detentions have a negative effect on and undermine the genuine efforts being taken by the health authorities, the security forces and the police to combat COVID-19.

We therefore, request you as the Inspector General of Police to direct your officers to refrain from arresting and detaining persons who are exercising their peaceful right to protest. As you are aware the BASL wrote to you on 10-06-2021 on the subject “Police Media Release on Circulation of Fake News, Photographs, Videos causing Disunity, Hate and Obstructing the COVID-19 Program”, to which we have had no reply as yet. The BASL is alarmed at the increasing threat posed to the rights of individuals by the Press Releases and Circulars issued by the Sri Lanka Police under the guise of controlling the spread of COVID-19.

We call upon you as the Director General of Health Services not to allow the Health Guidelines to be abused in a manner which has a chilling effect on the freedom to dissent and to ensure that Health Regulations and Guidelines are used only for the purpose they were promulgated for – i.e. to curb the spread of COVID-19.

The BASL is also concerned of the excessive force used by the Police in dealing with the protestors and has expressed its concern with regard to the use of excessive force by the Police on numerous occasions previously.

We will be releasing this letter to the media.

Yours faithfully

Saliya Pieris

President

Bar Association of Sri Lanka

PC Rajeev Amarasuriya

Secretary

Bar Association of Sri Lanka

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Latest comments

  • 16
    2

    This is MODERN day srilanka ruled by NANDASIN aka alleged high criminal and his WIYATH maga. It is public secret this man to have lived over 15 long years in the US. However, It seems that he has not had eyes on during that peiod.::::
    :
    They dont let even the octagenarians today. But the banner of SINHALA BUDDHISM is worn all over the body ( incl. around secret body parts). This is the levels that 6.9 millions brought as of today.

  • 13
    2

    No … it’s the failed King and his Moda Napuru Dynasty that should be forcibly quarantined in the Wuhan Institute of Virology right now.

  • 7
    1

    Guidelines permit several indoor and outdoor activities.

    If house on fire and people come out for help is these people put to quarantine/ arrests / detentions
    or appreciated

    The present action is like killing the mosquito when you see the mosquito you kill.

    They should see ( assess ) the situation and take action

    The concerned authority must examine issues concerning how police act and respond in general and what police do specifically when they interact with citizens, catch and Quarantine should not be used as punishment

    Assess and quarantine not catch and quarantine Stay diagnostic and take action

  • 11
    3

    Dr.Nandasenan very well aware of it give a toss ,this is not for police nor health officials …
    As someone mentioned now white buses …….
    Wonder he gets sleep….

  • 10
    2

    Looking at the picture. Sadhu Sadhu Sadhu.

    • 7
      2

      Chives, iscthat at all possible in india to treat an old lady this way? If that would been the case in Europe, people would nt treat it with total ignorance and seen yet in slanka. Those who attacked good governance would question today how Sorysena and Ranil did it without harming anyone. ? People in this country has not the little brains to consider such values. 😐🐕😐🐕😐🐕😐🐕😐🐕

  • 5
    1

    They, of the 6.9 million, to be happy that they were not shot or locked up as Sinhala kottiya or thrasthavadhi or LTTE supporters. Gota could have done that but now he knows the 6.9 million fools wont swallow his bull shit. Mahintha maama wont kiss the tarmac for killing the kotiyas now as that too he cant sell any more. Even Mahacharya from A’Pura along with Veeramonkey too cannot say that these people were trying to sterilise the sinhala buddhist women. Now our RARE Admiral can only say that Director of Health services was behind all these fiasco including kicking the women and dragging old ladies like what Maha maama did to army top man Sarath some years ago along the streets of colombo for winning the kottiyas. Now that situation is too bad despite doing numerous patriotic activities such as banning para dhemalu from singing (or sinking) national anthem in tamil, locking up para Muslims for ever and even digging buddhas statues wherever hindu kovils existed in the N&E yet the ungrateful 6.9 million traitors failed to admire the Raja family’s Sinhala Buddhsit patriotic fervour. But how about starting another patriotic uprising against the evil minorities who are trying to destroy 2500 year old great civilisation?

  • 5
    0

    Police behaviour is disgraceful. Treating an elderly person in that manner is shocking. Treating an elderly woman that way is outrageous. Doesn’t that male cop have a mother and grandmother? He should be stripped of his uniform and whipped on Galle Face.

  • 3
    0

    Police are doing this to get into the good books of the government like the army as this will get them promotions faster than usual, and, police high-ups may too be appointed to top posts even over government agents, as army men have been allowed to, now.
    It is a case of who will be better at maintaining law and order.
    In this rush to curry favour they are trampling the rights of ordinary citizens to carry out peaceful protests.

  • 3
    0

    That picture should make all Sri Lankans ASHAMED. Is that lady a threat to anyone? What happened to democracy? The Rajapaksa policies are eroding laws and making life hard for all of us. The strong men have chipped away all what we have proudly stood for, including peaceful protests. May I remind some here that last time these filthy scoundrels were in power unarmed civilians were brutally killed for PROTESTING THE CONTAMINATED WATER THEY WERE FORCED TO DRINK, because the Rajapaksa cronies were contaminating the water. International media is now bringing into focus the fact that Four brothers, Sons, In Laws, and Corrupt cronies are running this country. Nepotism in its ugliest form.

  • 4
    0

    The panty minister should made to wear Hanamali’s panties over his head and be forced to frog march up and down Galle road in front of the old parliament in nothing else but his birthday suit.

  • 4
    0

    The BASL is like a very old dog with loose teeth and wobbly legs. It sees the robbers scaling the wall and opening the gate but can scarcely manage an audible bark, let alone bite or maul the ravaging theives who plunder..if the courts are under obligation to do as told, and cops protect thieves not the public..waetath niyarath goyam ka nam karter pawasami ey amaaruwer..

  • 4
    0

    Does BASL’s voice make a difference? Has there been any response to its demands ever? BASL membership is not considered by many as ethical, witty, and consistent. BASL lacks public confidence just as AG’s Department. So the current regime will continue to humiliate, arrest, suppress, or neutralize dissenters. While some get sent to quarantine centers at the state’s expense while friends, like those found partying in Colpetty, are allowed home quarantine. Nepotism and favoritism is found world over, like what became so obvious under Donald Trump in the US. But what distinguishes the advanced nations from the poor is equal right to recourse and the strong conventional media. If people are afraid to comment with their real names, like right here, it means public are fearful of persecution. If BASL voice against those recently killed in custody is not heard, what is the probability that their voice on the arrest of few protesters will be heard?

  • 3
    0

    The manner in which people are being treated in this country is despicable . Why are they carrying our fellow human beings like animals , and don’t these people have human rights ? Where are the human rights activists ? Meantime criminals in death row are being granted pardons.

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