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BASL expresses concern over declaration of State of Emergency

9 months ago

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The Bar Association of Sri Lanka has expressed its concern over the state of emergency declared by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa yesterday. This was made known via a statement released by the BASL yesterday (06). "The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) is gravely concerned of the declaration of a state of emergency by His Excellency the President with effect from midnight on the 6th of May 2022. Consequent to the declaration of a state of emergency the President is empowered to make Emergency Regulations which can override, amend, or suspend the provision of any law, except the provisions of the Constitution. We also note that the declaration of emergency needs to be placed before Parliament and approved by a resolution within the period set out in the Constitution. As was stated earlier on the 2nd of April 2022, when the President declared a State of Emergency for a brief period of time, 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 and strikes which have occurred," the statement read. It further went on to mention that the protests reflected the desperate situation of the people who are seeking to secure for themselves, and their families some of the most basic essentials in life. "The declaration of the State of Emergency will further complicate the efforts at restoring political stability in Sri Lanka. 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. These rights are of course subject to the restrictions set out in Article 15 of the Constitution including in the interests of public order. Any restrictions that are imposed by law to these rights must be proportionate and reasonable. We re-iterate that the state of emergency must not be used to stifle peaceful protests and dissent or to make arbitrary arrests and detentions. The protests in turn must not be violent and must remain peaceful at all times," it read. Additionally, the BASL appealed to both the government and opposition parties to recognize the grave crisis that is faced by the country and its people and the urgent need to resolve the political impasse in the country. " We call upon the immediate implementation of the proposals of the BASL including the formation of a Government of National Unity with a Common Minimum Programme (CMP) ; the introduction of the 21st amendment to the Constitution and the abolition of the executive presidency as suggested by the BASL. The BASL calls upon His Excellency the President to forthwith explain to the people the reasons as to why he has declared the State of Emergency. We call upon His Excellency to 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 aspects of the sovereignty of the people are respected and protected and not violated by the State or its agents," the statement noted. The BASL statement noted that the BASL is committed to protecting the rights of the people of Sri Lanka and will take all necessary steps for that end including the providing of assistance to those whose rights may be infringed during this time. "The BASL also calls upon the people of the country to remain calm and to act in a peaceful manner so that their fundamental rights which form part of their intangible heritage remain protected," the statement concluded.

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