The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce yesterday expressed its deep concern over the brutality of the Police action to disperse the HNDA students who were agitating to present their grievances to the authorities.
In a statement it said whilst underscoring the need for the students to deal with such matters in a peaceful and a more responsible manner, without being misled by a few extremist and politically-motivated elements.
The CCC believes that it is the responsibility of the Government and above all the law enforcement authorities to act with utmost responsibility, respecting the principles of democracy and the rights of the citizens for freedom of expression, peaceful protest and engagement with the authorities, which are the fundamental ethos that the people of this country voted for and wanted to restore under a common banner of ‘Yahapalanaya’ on 8 January.
We respect that it is the duty and the responsibility of the Police to maintain law and order and protect public properties, but this must be done with utmost responsibility and restraint using the least amount of force and within the law. We urge the Independent Commissions, especially the Police Commission and Commission on Human Rights, to sincerely look into the matter and upon determining of any violation of law, then to take action, if that is the case.
One should even for a moment not forget that those who are protesting are the youth of this country and the next generation of leaders, eagerly seeking their rightful place in the society. It is the bounden responsibility of all concerned to engage them with due respect and address their grievances, before they become a major problem.
As a nation, we have seen more than enough of violence and destruction during the last several decades and the socioeconomic repercussions that it has resulted in. Therefore, we believe that it is high time that the government and the bureaucracy think new ways of engagement with all segments of the society to solve the many burning problems that were neglected and put aside for decades, building confidence and hope amongst the citizens.
The Government and the ministers entrusted with responsibilities must take the leadership and transform the thinking and create the space needed for such engagement without repeating the same old tactics and strategies that brought about the current level of disharmony, discontent and mistrust.
The promises that were made during the presidential and Parliamentary elections to restore ‘Yahapalanaya’ must be seen as delivered in every action that the Government takes for the people to restore confidence. As a business chamber, we believe that the citizens of this country, no matter, which social spectra they represent, should have the freedom to express their displeasure over an issue, even in the form of a peaceful street protest, without getting obstructed by the Police.
The CCC recently adopted and published 10 principles which we believe as the key fundamentals that needs to be focused and implemented for transforming the Sri Lankan economy and this incident falls well within three of the 10 principles, namely ‘Good Governance, Policy Stability and Regulatory Quality’, ‘National Integration, Harmony and Inclusiveness’, and ‘Demand-focused Education and Skills Development’. As stated during the announcement of these principles, our actions as well as reactions and engagement with all stakeholders will be based on these principles.