In another sign of President Nandasena Rajapaksa’s growing insecurity complex, the 31 year old identified as being the organizer of the honking protest during a road closure for a VVIP traffic movement on Tuesday (27) night has been arrested by the police.
He was arrested on charges of unlawful assembly and obstructing the duties of police officers, Police Spokesman Ajith Rohana said. The arrested man would be produced before the courts and charged under the Penal Code, he added. The police spokesman claimed that under the terms of the Vienna Convention, Sri Lanka had to provide maximum security to envoys such as the Chinese Defence Minister.
“The Chinese Defence Minister is a diplomat and a minister of one of the superpowers in the world,” Ajith Rohana told local broadcasters.
The honking protest took place when the motorcade of the Chinese Defence Minister was passing through Colombo 07 on Tuesday night.
The arrested “organizer” of the spontaneous act of resistance, repeatedly told police officers that he had voted for President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. “Is this what we voted for?” he kept asking the cops.
There is no evidence on the video that went viral for two days that the arrested man was obstructing the police in any way. The video shows him clearly urging other motorists also stalled because of the VVIP movement to honk in a display of displeasure.
The opposition United National Party (UNP) reacted swiftly to the news and demanded that the Government explain the reason behind the arrest.
“This arrest has demonstrated this Government’s insecurity and inability to tolerate any form of public opposition,” the UNP said in a statement released soon after reports surfaced of the arrest.
“We urge the authorities to ensure that the freedom of speech and freedom of expression is upheld,” the UNP statement said.
The UNP statement also recalled Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s comment in May 2019. Then Oppisition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa reacted to a similar honking protest against the Yahapalanaya administration during a road closure soon after the Easter Sunday bombings, saying “the displeasure shown by the public against the closure of roads for VIP vehicular movements by unceasingly sounding the horn were a reaction to the Government’s policies.”
The UNP statement said that on that occasion, “the then UNP led Government did not resort to any form of legal action to quell public anger.”
“While recognising that the security of visiting foreign dignitaries cannot be compromised, there appeared to have been no threat to the VIP or any fellow citizens,” the UNP statement added.
There was no immediate reaction from the main opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya to the latest crackdown on free expression and peaceful protest by the Nandasena Rajapaksa regime.