News

SJB to challenge IGP and DGHS in court

  • All cops including IGP who obstructed protest to be made respondents
  • Claim Director General of Health Services’ guidelines ‘politically motivated’

BY Buddhika Samaraweera

The main parliamentary Opposition, the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB), has said that it would initiate legal action to challenge the legality of the health guidelines issued by Director General of Health Services (DGHS) Dr. Asela Gunawardena and a circular issued recently by Inspector General of Police (IGP) Chandana D. Wickramaratne instructing police stations islandwide to divert the protesters.

The SJB held a protest under the slogan “Protest against the curse of the Government” in Colombo on 16 November, which came after new health guidelines were issued by the DGHS as well as a circular to all police stations islandwide by the IGP.

Speaking to The Morning, SJB Legal Secretary President’s Counsel (PC) Thisath Wijayagunawardane said the SJB is to challenge in court the legality of the recent health guidelines issued by DGHS Dr. Gunawardena. New Covid-19-related health guidelines issued by the DGHS on 15 November read: “Public gatherings, meetings, and events are not permitted until further notice unless prior approval is obtained from the proper authority for the whole of Sri Lanka.”

Elaborating on the matter, Wijayagunawardane noted: “We are going to challenge the directions issued by the DGHS on 15 November evening. They were clearly targeted at the protest organised by the SJB. It is very clear given the fact that he (DGHS) did not issue any of those guidelines until most of the police stations that sought orders from courts preventing the SJB protest from being held were not issued such orders by the courts.”

Further claiming that Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella has given powers to the DGHS to issue certain directions with regard to public gatherings, he added that the SJB would challenge Rambukwella’s actions too. “On 9 November, Rambukwella issued some guidelines under the Quarantine and Prevention of Diseases Ordinance as amended. Through such guidelines, he has given powers to the DGHS to make certain directions with regard to public gatherings. We will challenge Rambukwella’s regulations along with the directions issued by the DGHS, since they all seem to have been issued targeting the SJB protest,” he added.

Wijayagunawardane further claimed that the circular issued by the IGP instructing police stations islandwide to divert the protesters was illegal and that therefore a fundamental rights (FR) petition would be filed against him. He also said that one or more FR petitions would be filed against all the police officers who obstructed the protest organised by the SJB and the people, following the instructions contained in the circular issued by the IGP. “We are going to file FR petitions against the IGP especially, for issuing that illegal circular to subordinate police officers, and for obstructing the protest. We will also file FR petitions against each and every police officer who carried out those directions contained in the circular and obstructed the people who were coming to attend the SJB protest,” he added.

Attempts to contact Rambukwella and DGHS Dr. Gunawardena to inquire about the allegations against them proved futile.

Meanwhile, the Police has also warned that legal action would be initiated against the organisers of the protest in question.

When queried as to how the SJB would deal with such, Wijayagunawardane explained: “Let’s wait till they initiate action against us. We are ready to face any kind of legal action against the SJB or any of its members. If the Police is to take any such action, we will, in return, file an application against the Police for malicious prosecution.”

The Morning, on 16 November, learnt that busloads of people from various parts of the island had left for Colombo in the morning to participate in the SJB’s main protest in Colombo, but that police barricades had been set up along the roads where the Police had diverted several buses and other vehicles carrying these people to the commercial capital. The Police had also diverted buses and other vehicles, especially in areas such as Kandy, Haputale, Kurunegala, Peliyagoda, Anuradhapura, Warakapola, Nugegoda, and the Southern Expressway entrances.