Sri Lanka police arrest over 45 for organising protests in violation of ban

Sri Lanka police arrested over 45 people Thursday (08) for engaging and demonstrations and protests in violation of a COVID-19 ban on protests and public meetings, police said.

Thirty-one people including Sri Lanka Teachers’ Union General Secretary Joseph Stalin Thursday morning over a protest held against the proposed Kotelawala Defence University (KDU) bill at the parliament roundabout in Sri Jayawardenapura, Kotte.

The protest was jointly organised by the Inter-University Students Federation (IUSF), the Sri Lanka Teachers’ Union and the Frontline Socialist Party.

The bill, first presented in 2018 under the previous government, has been controversial, with left-leaning opposition parties including the Jantha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) alleging that it paves the way for militarisation of higher education in Sri Lanka.

Police Media Spokesman Senior Deputy Inspector General (SDIG) Ajith Rohana said that two monks and two females were among the 31 arrested.

Meanwhile, 13 members of the JVP, including two former provincial councillors, were arrested at a protest staged in Akuressa against the fuel price increase and the government’s controversial chemical fertilizer ban.

On Wednesday (07), former JVP provincial councillor Samantha Vidyaratna and national organiser of the All Island Govi Jana Federation (farmers’ collective) Namal Karunaratne and the three others were arrested over a protest against the fertiliser ban.

Four people including Nuwara Eliya district JVP organiser Manjula Suraweera Arachchi was arrested over another protest held in Hatton against the KDU bill on Thurday.

Meanwhile, the main opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) held a protest near parliament Thursday morning against what it called the government’s suppression of the people’s right to protest.

Sri Lanka banned protests and public meetings until further notice on Tuesday (06) to prevent large gatherings and the further spread of COVID-19.

Director-General of Health Services Dr Asela Gunawardena had written to the Inspector General of Police informing him of the decision, a police statement said.

Police said that the violations of the said decision will be dealt with according to quarantine regulations.

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