IUSF pledges to besiege Parliament
By Shamindra Ferdinando
The President of the Human Rights Commission, Judge Rohini Marasinghe, has requested explanations from the Secretary of Defense, General Kamal Gunaratne, the IGP CD Wickremaratne and the Secretary to the President, Gamini Senarath, in the context unions affiliated with political parties and civil society groups, questioning the government on the declaration of emergency from midnight on May 7,
The HRC is made up of Justice Marasinghe, Venerable Kalupahana Piyarathana Thera, Dr. MH Nimal Karunasiri, Dr. Vijitha Nanayakkara and Ms. Anusuya Shanmuganathan.
Judge Marasinghe said yesterday (08) The Island that the HRC felt the urgent need to seek clarification, on behalf of the public, of the reasons for the controversial proclamation, as the protests have been largely peaceful and fall within the realm of normal police operations. “We sincerely hope that freedom of expression and assembly, the rights associated with arrest and detention and other fundamental rights and freedoms will not be affected or diminished during the emergency period.
Addressing a hastily organized press briefing on Saturday, labor activist Ravi Kumudesh declared his intention to besiege parliament when it resumes sitting on May 17.
Kumudesh warned lawmakers would be allowed into parliament unimpeded but would not be allowed out until public grievances were addressed.
Former JVP lawmaker Wasantha Samarasinghe, former UNP MP Saman Ratnapriya and JVP labor activists Mahinda Jayasinghe (education) and Ranjan Jayalal (electricity) joined Kumudesh in saying what they called a national week of protest.
Frontline Socialist Party (FSP) spokesperson Duminda Nagamuwa told a separate press briefing that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa would soon regret not stepping down from the executive presidency when he could.
Recalling how the president recently regretted his sudden and disastrous decision to change agricultural policy and the undue delay in seeking help from the International Monetary Fund (OMF), the breakaway JVP faction said the government had lost its bearings . Likewise, the president would soon regret clinging to executive power despite public demands to resign.
Judge Marasinghe underlined that the HRC was seriously concerned by a further deterioration of the situation.
President of the Inter-University Students Federation (IUSF) Wasantha Mudalige last Friday (06) said they would surround Parliament on May 17. The FSP-affiliated IUSF involved in the ongoing protest campaign against Galle Face issued the warning following two tear gas attacks on them and the public blocking the main entrance to Parliament.
FSP’s Pubudu Jagoda said he was quite surprised by the government’s response to growing public dissatisfaction with the shortage of essential items and services as well as political instability. The declaration of emergency has only strengthened our resolve to drive out the corrupt regardless of the consequences, Jagoda said, with frequent traffic disruptions on major roads in Colombo and its suburbs and provinces reflecting the breakdown of law and order.
Jagoda stressed that the urgency would not be a deterrent at all as the public were on the streets in large numbers. Law enforcement authorities could not cope with such a massive public protest campaign by declaring the emergency, Jagoda said, drawing the government’s attention to the public’s response to the imposition of a nationwide curfew on April 3 to thwart the protest campaign. People simply moved through the streets, broke curfew and simply ignored the presence of the police.
By declaring an emergency, the government has now set the stage for an unprecedented confrontation between the public and the police, Jagoda said. “We are in a critical phase which can influence public campaigns of disobedience. There is no turning back now. The confrontation in parliament on May 17 cannot be resolved by political juggling,” Jagoda said.