By Tilvin Silva –
The statement issued by the Police quoting the Director-General of Health states that the police will act against those who break quarantine laws. Instead of using the quarantine law to suppress the corona, the present government has started suppressing the struggles of the people in our country. The Police Headquarters issued a statement on 6th July stating that protests, rallies will be banned due to health risks. Why did they suddenly remember something like this suddenly? Several quarantine laws related to corona suppression have been published.
According to government statistics, corona infections have not changed much in recent times. So the underlying purpose of this statement is clearly to stop mass protests on the pretext of taking action against health risks. Several factors influenced the government to make such an announcement suddenly. The Kotelawala University Act, which marks the death knell of free education and militarizes education, is being prepared to be passed in Parliament.
The privatization of education began when Ranil Wickremesinghe was the Minister of Youth Affairs and Education. Due to protests carried out against it by students, teachers and parents, the move was defeated. This government too is using great force to get this bill passed suddenly. Don’t ordinary citizens have the right to know about a bill that affects the future of children in this country?
There is no dialogue in society about it yet. The government is ready to adopt it fraudulently without allowing any such dialogue. But those who love free education and those who care about their children’s right to education are protesting against it. Therefore, press releases are issued by the Police Headquarters to suppress the protests against the bill. How can it be a crime to speak out about a bill on the right to education of one’s children? Mr Ranil Wickremesinghe and the upper-class racketeers around Mr Rajapaksa have no problem with this. Nevertheless, the children of the common people get higher education because of free education. Destroying it is not easily reversed.
On the other hand, there is a series of farmers’ protests over the fertilizer issue. A series of protests are going on against the increase in prices of essential commodities. They are not artificial or forced protests. People have a real problem. People have a choice to make whether to die of corona or die from starvation. Without fertilizer, there will be no harvest. Without harvest, there will be no food. So farmers cannot wait for the corona to stop. The same goes for the Kotelawala Act. It will be brought to Parliament. The people have a sacred right to speak out against these issues.
Corona suppression laws are being used to seize that right fraudulently. The government has no intention of suppressing corona. Corona issue continues like a beggar’s wound. They cover all their inadequacies with corona. The government commits all possible hostilities against the country. The Port City Act was passed under the cover of corona. The use of corona laws to suppress anti-government protests is a vicious attempt. The government has failed economically, politically, administratively as well as in suppressing the corona and providing education. As such, there is opposition to the government on all sides. The government has no answers. The government will continue to crack down on those who fight responsibly for their just rights.
The government is pursuing a policy of arresting and intimidating people. What was once done using the Emergency Act is now being done using the Prevention of Terrorism Act and today it is being done using the Corona Law. The government is also using the Director-General of Health for its narrow purposes. We tell him not to allow them to use him for their narrow aims. There are many absurd decisions taken by the government in the recent past. The travel restrictions imposed in the past were changed from time to time to allow the private sector to continue working. The public sector was also allowed. Essential services were also allowed. There was no travel limit. Mr Shavendra Silva also decided to open the fairs. How to open weekly fairs and restrict travel? These actions have ridiculed travel restrictions. The bars were opened. We know how the crowds fill up when the government opens bars to collect tax revenue. The spas too, were allowed to open. Can massage therapists maintain a meter distance? Several army camps were used without any plan to provide vaccinations in the Western Province. All the channels showed how crowds thronged to these centres. How could they keep the meter distance? The army officers were also pushed aside by the crowds. These are the real clusters.
Crowds are allowed to gather but when people take to the streets for their rights they are intimidated and arrested even when the protesters are abiding by the Corona quarantine laws. Farmers’ leaders who participated in the Welimada Boralanda farmers’ agitation were arrested. Comrade Namal Karunaratne, Comrade Samantha Vidyaratne and a Buddhist priest who lead it were arrested. The court granted them bail. Also protesters of the Frontline Party had been arrested.
These were not the hopes of the 6.9 million who voted for the government. They expected to build a disciplined country, a just society and exercise their free rights. Now, the government is suppressing the voice of the people and intimidating the media, which is voicing the concerns of the people. We demand the government not to attempt this. No one who has treaded on that path has won. JR, who had 5/6 more power than Gotabaya Rajapaksa, was thrown to the dustbin. Therefore, we urge the government to stop these vile moves.
We, yet again, call upon the government to reverse the Kotelawala University Act to be brought tomorrow. People who are shouting for fertilizer should be given a suitable type of fertilizer. Provide relief to the people fighting due to the increase in oil prices and the increase in prices of goods. We ask the government not to raise the sarong to cover its face due to shame. If that happens, it will be exposed. The government is doing that. The country has agreed not to break the Corona rules. However, if the government is violating the corona rules, if the government does not allow the corona rules to be obeyed, it has to listen to the voice of the people and should not be prepared to suppress that voice.
At the same time, we propose to the government to make a proper plan and take action to control corona. The government should prepare a plan to repress corona within two to three months. We emphasize that the government should not obstruct the normal life of the people while corona is allowed to spread throughout the country. Let us all work together to make a corona eradication plan and end this pandemic.
The government cannot be allowed to use corona to cover their shortcomings. We tell Mr Gotabaya Rajapaksa that the repressive measures cannot stop just struggles of the people. It has been proved in Sri Lanka or any other country in the world that repressive measures cannot stop struggles. Repression brings more people to the battlefields and creates new battlefields. Government repression has created another battleground to protect democracy.
Whatever repressive measures the government takes would create battlefields. Repression cannot solve problems. It cannot scare away people. On the other hand, we tell the government that no matter who is intimidated, the JVP cannot be intimidated. We would not stop the activities we take on behalf of the people. We will continue to struggle and take action on reasonable grounds. The government has to take back the repressive measures.
*Excerpts from the speech made at the press conference held at the JVP head office