DNA accuses Govt of  violating basic freedoms enshrined in Constitution

By Saman Indrajith

A dangerous trend of using police and armed forces to suppress the people’s voice against the government violating the Constitutional rights of citizens was visible, the DNA said in Parliament yesterday.

DNA Parliamentary Group Leader MP Anura Kumara Dissanayake making a special statement said that the government had now turned to bringing about new laws and to reinterpret the existing laws to meet its narrow political objectives.

Though Section No 12 of the Constitution said that all are equal before the law, it was now clear and evident that it was not so. This was very much discernible in the fact that the government itself was violating the Constitution –the very basic law of the land. The Chapter 03, Section 11 of the Constitution said that "No person shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment." The government had failed to ensure the provision. The recent incidents of protests where the government forces fired at the agitators, and abducted some persons in custody from court premises, were examples for this failure, he said.

Dissanayake said that Section 14 of the Constitution accepted and upheld the right of freedom of speech, assembly, association and movement. ‘Every citizen is entitled to - (a) the freedom of speech and expression including publication; (b) the freedom of peaceful assembly.’ But in practice those rights were only for the government and its supporters. The government had to do away with the emergency laws few months ago. "We at that time pointed out that to ensure the real freedom the government should also do away with the Prevention of Terrorism Act, which is the twin brother of the emergency regulations. We warned then that the government would make use of the provisions of the PTA to suppress the students, farmers and workers taking to streets demanding their rights. The PTA too has the similar draconian provisions to suppress the voice of people."

The MP said that undergraduates, farmers, peasants, workers and members of the civil society had taken to the streets to protest the rising cost of living and pruning down of their rights. The government sent armed forces and police to shoot and baton charge those agitators which was against the freedoms enshrined in the Constitution.

There were reports to the effect that the government was placing orders to import loads of tear gas cylinders, rubber bullets, and gas masks in the near future. Those reports indicated that the measures were being taken to suppress the people more and more, he said.

The MP demanded to know whether the government accepted the right of the people to agitate for their rights and was it constitutional to summon the police and armed forces to suppress the agitators.

Chief Government Whip Water Supply and Drainage Minister Dinesh Gunawardena said that the government had never violated the Constitution which guaranteed the rights of not only the protesters but also other citizens. Whenever a mob of protesters damaged the public property and disturbed the civilians the police would use minimum force to disperse them. A Superintendent of Police had the power to summon assistance of armed forces in this regard when there was a necessity to do so.

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