It is becoming increasingly evident that this government, which has failed in every sphere of governance, is also incapable of tolerating even the mildest criticism or dissent. We have observed that the police force is being used not for the protection of people, but rather as an instrument for harassing and intimidating government critics. In recent times, students, teachers, academics and activists who have been engaged in a range of protests have been detained and/or being sought for questioning by the police. Trade union leaders have been harassed. Media including social media commentators, even health professionals who have been sharing their COVID experiences publicly are being questioned by the police. Civil society activists who express their views are being investigated, the latest being Shehan Malaka Gamage, who spoke out on the Easter Attacks to the media.
We would like to remind the government that the freedom of expression is a constitutionally guaranteed right. We appreciate the actions of several Magistrates recently, who have unequivocally reminded the police of this in recent incidents when people were presented to court by the police. However, it is clear that the police are being ordered by the political authority to act in this manner. We noticed several instances where police officers were embarrassed in court because they had to follow politically motivated directives. We also know that the government will not step up to defend police officers who have been forced to carry out these instructions.
These are cowardly tactics employed by insecure leaders who are clearly out of their depth in doing what they are supposed to do: govern the country. When the country and its people are in the midst of a battle against a global epidemic, unsure of their own lives or those of their loved ones, this government is seemingly more concerned with shutting down its critics. Unable to provide solutions for any of the legitimate issues faced by the people of this country, harassing critics seems to be the only response the government can conjure up at this time. The NPP calls upon the government to focus on what is important for the people at this moment in time – namely managing the COVID epidemic effectively and prioritising the health and wellbeing of our people. We vehemently condemn these efforts at intimidation and the use of the police for political ends. We call upon all the people to stand strong together against these anti-democratic government tactics. As the NPP we will continue to stand by the right of people to dissent and express their opinions and we will take whatever necessary actions to protect these democratic rights.