NPP to legally challenge emergency and curfew gazettes

The lawyers of National People’s Power (NPP) said yesterday (3) that they would legally challenge both the gazettes that declared a state of emergency in the country and the one that imposed a curfew, and claimed that both are unconstitutional.

“The President’s reasons and goal for a state of emergency do not fulfil the legal provisions of the Constitution and the Public Security Ordinance. Similarly, the details in the gazette declaring a curfew are not covered in any way by the law,” said NPP member Attorney-at-Law (AAL) Sunil Watagala at a media briefing held yesterday.

Last Friday (1), President Gotabaya Rajapaksa declared a state of public emergency in Sri Lanka. Last Saturday (2), he issued a gazette declaring a curfew under Section 16 of the Public Security Ordinance, declaring that no person shall be on any public road, railway, public park, public recreation ground or other public ground, or the seashore in such areas, from 6 p.m. of Saturday to 6 a.m. today (4), except under the authority of a written permit granted by the Defence Ministry, Public Security Ministry, or the Inspector General of Police or any officer authorised by them.

He said that the problem was that the Government failed to supply diesel, petrol, and gas necessary for the livelihoods of the public, which led to peaceful demands from the people.

“Is that a reason to declare a state of emergency?” questioned Watagala.

“As the lawyers of the NPP, we are stating that this is completely unconstitutional. There are reports that many parties will challenge these gazettes. We will also challenge both gazettes in the Supreme Court,” said Watagala.

Protests have become a common sight around the island in the past three months, as citizens’ calls for the supply of basic essentials such as fuel, electricity, food items, and gas have been increasing. Alongside this, the “#GoHomeGota” hashtag has been popularised across social media. Last Thursday (31 March) night, a people’s protest was held in Mirhana, Nugegoda, close to the Pangiriwatte Lane which houses the private residence of the President. Video reports show an individual setting fire to a bus, which the protestors claimed was not one of them but an individual affiliated with the Government, and protestors attempting to topple the barricades at the entrance to the lane. Tear gas and water cannons were used against the protestors by the Police and 53 suspects were arrested following the incident. Many amongst them have alleged that they were severely assaulted and tortured by the Police and the armed forces, which has since led to a large public outcry. Following these incidents, the President declared a state of emergency, imposed a curfew, and temporarily blocked several social media applications over the weekend.