- Say arrests are blatant abuse of draconian PTA
IT Professionals for the People and Artist of the People’s Movement yesterday in a statement called for immediate release of Wasantha Mudalige and Sirdhamma Thero saying their arrests were a blatant abuse of the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act.
Following is their full statement.
On 18 August 2022, Convenor of the Inter-University Students Federation (IUSF), Wasantha Mudalige and Convenor of the Inter-University Bhikku Federation, Galwewa Siridhamma Thera were arrested, along with fellow IUSF member Hashantha Jeewantha Gunathilake.
All three of them were actively involved in organising and participating in demonstrations against the Government for bringing Sri Lanka to bankruptcy, exercising their fundamental democratic right to peaceful protest and assembly. On many occasions, these protests have been violently dispersed by police using tear gas, water cannons and batons.
Subsequently, after being arbitrarily held in solitary confinement for 50 days, Gunathilake was released by the Tangalle Magistrate, with no charges brought against him. But both Mudalige and Siridhamma Thera continue to be held under harsh, cruel, and inhumane conditions.
To the best of our knowledge these two student activists have not engaged in any acts of terrorism. What we have seen is their active participation in peaceful and democratic protests that the country witnessed since early this year. People in their hundreds of thousands came out on to the streets to show their anger and frustration over the unprecedented economic and social ruin brought upon our country by a failed government, led by an incompetent and inept President.
Far from being terrorists, Mudalige and Siridhamma Thera acted fearlessly to exercise their sovereignty, and their rights and responsibilities as citizens of Sri Lanka to mobilise students and others to hold the Government accountable for the misery that had been brought upon our people. We believe they should be lauded for their civic consciousness and not imprisoned and incarcerated as terrorists.
We call for their immediate release. We also take this opportunity to call for the abolishing of the Prevention of Terrorism Act.
What is especially appalling to us is that the very people who brought Sri Lanka to its knees through their greed for wealth, massive corruption, sheer arrogance, and utter incompetence should still wield political power—including enjoying all the associated perks and privileges of that power at the expense of ordinary people—while those who have stood against them have been harassed, beaten, and imprisoned for their patriotic devotion and support for the betterment of our country.
Today Sri Lanka is facing crippling economic and social crises. The cost of living has increased as never before, and a large section of our population are facing serious shortages of food and medicine, while our children face severe malnutrition.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation and World Food Program reported that that an estimated 6.3 million people faced “moderate to severe acute food insecurity”. “Months into this crippling economic crisis, families are running out of options—they are exhausted. More than 60% of families are eating less, and eating cheaper, less nutritious food,” it stated.
Meanwhile hundreds of thousands of Sri Lankans are fleeing the country seeking a better future for themselves and their families in foreign lands. This is a massive drain of our skilled people across many vital sectors, including education and health, at a time we desperately need them to rebuild our country.
This is what the President and those in government need to address urgently, instead of using the police and state resources to harass, intimidate and terrorise those who have no option but to demonstrate their anger at their livelihoods being robbed and to demand relief for their immense hardships and suffering.
The Artists of the People’ s Movement and IT Professionals for the People stand in solidarity with our suffering citizens and call upon the President and his government to stop their cowardly attacks on law-abiding citizens and get out of the way of the work being undertaken by those who truly care for the future of Sri Lanka.