Defiant SJB to go ahead with protest despite legal hurdles

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COLOMBO – Sri Lanka’s main opposition, the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB), is determined to go ahead with a mass rally and protest planned for Tuesday (16), despite what the party claims are government attempts to block it.

The protest march from various parts of the country, against what the SJB claims is the ‘accursed government’, was set to congregate in a mass rally at Hyde Park grounds, Colombo, on Tuesday.  However, the Public Health Department of the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) on Friday (12), revoked the approval previously given to the party for the rally, citing increased COVID-19 cases. The revocation followed a government gazette notification issued on Thursday (11) amending the quarantine ordinance, making it mandatory to obtain approval from the director-general, health services for gatherings to stop the spread of COVID-19. The amendment also empowered the director-general to make decisions on venues, the number of participants and other particulars.

Putting an additional roadblock to the SJB plans, the police also obtained several court orders to block the protest. Police spokesman Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Nihal Thalduwa said the Hulftsdorp Magistrate’s Court 5, Mahara Magistrate’s Courts 1 and 2, the Kaduwela Magistrate’s Court and the Homagama Magistrate’s Court had all issued orders blocking the protest.  .

“Some other courts’ orders are pending. The request from police to the courts was to issue orders to prevent the rally under quarantine law,” Thalduwa elaborated.

However, SJB General Secretary, MP Ranjith Madduma Bandara said the rally will go ahead as planned, despite the government’s best efforts to block it, noting that though some courts had issued orders against the protest march, other courts have rejected the request from the police.

Madduma Bandara accused the government of using various tactics to stop the event, but said, its efforts had failed.

Noting that “everyone will come voluntarily”, Madduma Bandara said the party expects a good crowd, and that protest marches coming from several areas will gather in Colombo

The SJB has been promoting the protest for over a week, with videos shared online and on broadcast media inviting the public to join its protest against an “accursed” government which has betrayed its own voters.

If it goes according to plan, the protest will see thousands of farmers and people of all walks of life take to the streets to express their frustration over the rising cost of living, the ailing economy, the COVID-19 epidemic, and a number of other issues.

-EN/ENCL

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