Foreign Minister and former firebrand opposition activist recalls brutality used to quash opposition and civilian protests during previous regime
Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera yesterday issued scathing criticism of the Police Department, condemning violence used against student protestors recalling that the same brutality had been used against opposition political rallies and peaceful protestors not so long ago.
Issuing a press release regarding the attacks by police officials on Higher National Diploma in Accountancy students outside the University Grants Commission last week, Minister Samaraweera said that the freedom of expression and protest was a democratic right in civilised societies.
The Minister said that newspapers and social media pictures had shown police resorting to violence to control and disperse the protestors, adding that the conduct by law enforcement officials was not in keeping with what he called the “Maithripala Sirisena-Ranil Wickremesinghe era.”
“We have not forgotten how we were attacked when we launched peaceful rallies while in the opposition. We haven’t forgotten the inhumane way in which the previous government handled the Katunayake demonstrations, Rathupaswala demonstrations and other student demonstrations in the past,” Foreign Minister Samaraweera said in his media release.
“The massive peaceful revolution that took place on 8 January was borne out of the need to rid the country of inhumane rulers who provided leadership to similar incidents. That revolution was launched in an effort to truly create a democratic and a civilised new political culture in the country,” he recalled.
Minister Samaraweera charged that there were conspirators attempting to justify what he called the “brutal past” by portraying the present Government as being the same as the former one. Samaraweera claimed these conspirators could be trying to portray that the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration was no different to the Rajapaksa regime.
Therefore he said, it is essential to urgently ascertain whether these attacks had been a result of such a conspiracy.
Hailing the Prime Minister for calling for a report on the violence, the Foreign Minister added that it was the responsibility of the IGP to identify the police officers involved in the incident, whose photographs are displayed in the newspapers, to take immediate disciplinary action against them pending the submission of this report.
“The credibility of our administration, which has been praised and commended not only by the majority of the citizens of our country but also by the international community, can be preserved only by taking prompt action against the police officers who had acted against the law in this incident. This will enable us to display to the outside world once again that ours is a truly democratic country,” the Foreign Minister’s statement said. (DB)