Officials responsible for informing the public through factual information are intimidated and that they are directly involved in restricting the expression of opinions, the ‘Power of Working People’ Organization states.
The group said the government’s goal is to restrict and intimidate public servants in the public service. The organization further said that the government leaders would regret in the future their despicable attempts to intimidate government employees and restrict freedom of expression called on all public servants to exercise their right to freedom of expression without being intimidated by the acts of the government.
The organization emphasizes that the Constitution of Sri Lanka recognizes freedom of expression as a fundamental right and that the Constitution also guarantees the right of the public to information.
Arresting Chamila Jayasinghe
The arrest of Assistant Commissioner of the Kotmale Land Settlement Department, by the CID for posting a Facebook post is a relentless restriction on the officer’s right to express his views, the Power of Working People Organization said.
They also said that he had not committed a crime heinous enough for the CID to travel all the way from Colombo to Kandy to arrest him suddenly.
“On May 21, a group of CID officers arrested Chamila Jayasinghe, the Assistant Commissioner of the Kotmale Land Settlement Department. He was accused of sharing news related to Sinharaja on the Facebook website. Prior to his arrest, the CID had summoned the officer to give a statement regarding a post he had posted on Facebook. The call was made regarding a Facebook post posted by Chamila Jayasinghe. The note states that the post was previously shared on social media about a news item related to retired Secretary to the Ministry of Defense, Major General Kamal Gunaratne,” the organization stated.
Disciplinary inquiry against Chamal Sanjeewa
“Major General Sanjeewa Munasinghe, Secretary to the Ministry of Health, has issued a letter to his ministry officials stating the restrictions on their right to freedom of expression. The letter quoted the Public Administration Circulars and the Establishments Code, threatening disciplinary action against officials who expressed their views,” the Working People’s Power organization said.
Subsequently, it was reported that the Ministry of Health had taken disciplinary action against Dr. Chamal Sanjeewa, the Deputy Director of the Ministry of Health, Estates and Urban Development, for giving an interview to a YouTube channel. The organization claims that is the aim of the government is to restrict the expression rights of public servants and to intimidate them.
The organization also states that,
“A statement issued by the Presidential Media Unit stated that President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa had stated on May 21 that it is more important for government officials and responsible persons not to appear before the media unnecessarily and to inform the president directly about any matter. Such statements also confirm that those responsible for publicizing the views of the public through the media are intimidated and that they are directly involved in restricting the expression of views.
Beyond that, there is an important point we need to keep in mind. Rulers do not have the ability to restrict the expression rights of officials, citing the Establishments Code. There is a historic Supreme Court decision in this regard in Sri Lanka.
That historic decision is the verdict of the fundamental rights petition filed by a teacher, Mrs. P.S.M. Pelaketiya, for restricting her right to express her views and for giving a statement to the media, citing the Establishments Code. Decision No. 76/2012 affirms the right of public officers to express their views.
The ruling confirms that the Constitution is above the Establishments Code. We remind you that officials in our country, as well as the general public, do not prefer such repressive efforts and have stood against them throughout history.”