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BASL requests that the Acting President lift the State of Emergency

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BASL requests that the Acting President lift the State of Emergency. The Bar Association of Sri Lanka calls upon the Acting President to forthwith revoke the proclamation declaring a State of Emergency, and to ensure that the fundamental rights of the people such as the freedom of expression including the freedom of speech and publication and the freedom of peaceful assembly which are all aspects of the sovereignty of the people are respected and protected and not violated by the State or its agents.

The BASL is of the view that at a time when the election to the office of President has been scheduled in Parliament, the Emergency Regulations must not be used to suppress any legitimate expression of opinion on the election of the President nor to suppress any dissent or disagreement on a particular candidate.

The BASL also notes that in terms of the law any attempt to unduly influence a Member of Parliament or bribing a Member of Parliament in respect of his vote is a specific offence under the law. Any attempt to use any threat, undue influence, coercion or bribe to influence such vote will be illegal and should not be condoned.

However, it must also be noted that whilst undue influence or threats are prohibited, the law does not preclude a member of the public from expressing his or her view on the election or the choice of a particular candidate or the relative merits or demerits of a candidate at the election.

The BASL is firmly of the view that the right to protest and the right to dissent are important aspects of the fundamental rights of the people including the freedom of expression and the freedom of peaceful assembly. The BASL reiterates that the State of Emergency must not be used to stifle peaceful protests and dissent or to make arbitrary arrests and detentions.

Fundamental Rights are of course subject to the restrictions set out in Article 15 of the Constitution including in the interests of public order. However, any restrictions that are imposed by law must be proportionate and reasonable.

As the BASL has noted time and again if a peaceful protest becomes violent, that will only dilute the objective and purpose of a peaceful expression of dissent and strengthen the hands of those who seek to suppress legitimate dissent. Those engaged in protests must take utmost care to ensure that such protests remain peaceful and must be wary of persons who might seek to cause violence and destruction during such protests.

The BASL remains of the view that a declaration of a state of emergency is not the answer to the present situation in the country, including the spate of public protests which have occurred which resulted in the eventual resignation of the former President.

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