The government is trying to intimidate independent public officials and that this is a serious threat, Former Ministerial Secretary and former President of the Sri Lanka Administrative Services Association Ashoka Peiris said.
He also said that in such a situation, it is a serious problem for the administrative associations representing the relevant public officials to follow a silent policy. Speaking at a media briefing held by the National Intellectuals Organization yesterday (23), the former Secretary said,
‘As the former President of the Sri Lanka Administrative Services Association, I am speaking under the circumstances that have arisen now. Chamila Jayasinghe, an Assistant Commissioner of the Land Title Settlement Department, was arrested by the CID. Before that there were also a number of other reasons. Three officers of the CID had gone to his house and questioned him about a post he had posted on social media a few months ago. He has been arrested on the charge of causing inconvenience to the government as a government official due to this post.
A Serious Warning
“This is a serious warning to government officials. It is clear that there is a big threat posing in front of government officials. This shows that if a public servant is working independently or expressing a critical opinion, not only his occupational life, but also his personal life will be affected. At the same time, the Secretary to the Ministry of Health, retired Major General Sumedha Perera had issued a circular prohibiting all members of the health sector from expressing their views to the media. A mistake was made by issuing this circular to the working health officials of the provincial councils. This is a serious issue for the public’s right to information. It was argued that a right guaranteed by the Constitution cannot be violated by a circular issued by a Secretary to the Ministry.”
A matter of existence?
“In this situation, it is a serious problem for us that the Sri Lanka Administrative Services Association is asleep. The Administrative Services Association must first come forward on behalf of its 2800 members. But they showed no interest in it. Some officials personally intervened but did not come forward as an association.
The administrative service in Sri Lanka can be in a deplorable state if they think that expressing their views against this situation will be an obstacle to their existence. Public service is not a service that can be directed by the governments that come to power. Prime Minister Sri Nehru said that the civil service in India should continue as it was after independence. Sri Lankan politicians began to intervene as they wished. Not only administrative officials but all government officials should unite against this situation.”
“Fundamental rights are being violated”
Speaking at the media briefing, Senior Attorney-at-Law Upul Kumarapperuma stated that the Supreme Court has given a number of rulings that uphold freedom of speech and expression. He also said,
“There are a number of rights given to the people by the Constitution. It is these fundamental rights that create the democratic structure of the country. Freedom of speech and expression is guaranteed to every citizen of this country under Article 14-1 (b) of the Constitution. It is clear from some recent arrests that the government is working to block freedom of speech and expression.
The closest example is the arrest of a young man for honking his horn against a traffic block when” Chinese diplomats arrived.
Prime Minister’s trumpet blowing
“There is even a verdict in a major case in this regard. This is called the Jana Ghosha case verdict. This decision is reminiscent of the current Prime Minister blowing a trumpet. Supreme Court Judge Mark Fernando has made a clear statement in that case.
Citizens have the right to praise the state as well as to criticize the state. Accordingly, this has been introduced as a fundamental attribute of Democracy to the citizens of the country. This case is called Sirimal v. Amaratunga.”
What does Article 120 say?
“In any case, there can be opposition within the system. The police are violating that fundamental right. Only in the exercise of those rights does the existence of a society, an individual and the whole body of society depend. The government wants to set aside these rights. They arrest people under Section 120 of the Penal Code for acting against the state.’
Article 120 states that ‘action that may be taken regarding oppressing the government, whether by inciting or attempting to incite anti-Sri Lankan sentiments by means of a word or sign that is meant to be spoken or read, or by any attempt to incite hatred or disrespect to law enforcement, or any other means.”
“It is a right to oppose”
“This press conference we are conducting can also be included in Article 120. Without properly interpreting, you can take things like holding press conferences, protesting, writing an article also under this Article 120. But the police cannot use these clauses in that way. The Supreme Court has ruled that the arrest made by the police in ‘Janaghosha’ case is a violation of the Constitution.
The police cannot twist the Article 120 cannot be twisted here and there. The people of the country should be aware of this. If there is an attempt to suppress opposition to the government by using some part of the law arbitrarily, there is a right to oppose it.”