A statement has been made by the President of the Sri Lanka Bar Association President’s Counsel Saliya Peiris and its Secretary lawyer Isuru Balapatbandige concerning the ridiculous gazette on high security zones that Ranil’s fascist head conjured up under the concept that ‘Any bill that comes to mind can be made into a law.’
The Bar Association has made this announcement against the attempt to convert the madness of an old man with no public votes into a law.
To put simply, the Bar Association has shown that this gazette is illegal and has stated in the announcement that it is “carefully studying” this matter in order to take legal action.
The announcement also quotes the Supreme Court judgment of the famous case known as “Jana Ghosha” or Amaratunge v. Sirimal and others (1993): “Stifling the peaceful expression of legitimate dissent today can only result, inexorably, in the catastrophic explosion of violence some other day.”
The gazette in question was issued under the signature of President Ranil Wickremesinghe as Minister of Defense on Friday, September 23.
The gazette announcement, which began as “This Order may be cited as High Security Zone Order bearing No. 01 of 2022” was described as orders made by the President under Section 2 of the Official Secrets Act No. 32 of 1955.
We will elaborate on the areas declared as high security zones later. In general, many places where ordinary citizens hang out and live, including Fort, Colpetty, Pettah, Thummulla, Bauddhaloka Mawatha where the BMICH is located, Thalawathugoda Road and many other roads around the Parliament have been designated as high security zones.
Simply put, according to this law, holding the book fair at the BMICH and parking around that the area are illegal. People gathering at the book fair is a crime.
Anyway, the Bar Association points out that Section 2 of the Official Secrets Act does not mention high security zones. Instead, there are only provisions that give the authority to designate certain specific places like a land, building, or aircraft as a “prohibited place”. No powers have been given to make nonsensical laws that designate roads and residential areas as high security zones.
According to the relevant clause, a prohibited place is simply prohibited. But instead of prohibiting these places they’ve mentioned, they are playing an entirely different game.
In addition, the Bar Association points out that the Official Secrets Act exists to protect information related to state security. That means, a building may be designated as a “prohibited place” if there’s sensitive information regarding the country’s security inside. However, areas where ordinary citizens live, eat and drink, trade, rest, sleep, raise children, and areas with hospitals and schools cannot be covered by such a law. So, this gazette goes against the Act’s objectives.
The Bar Association also points out that the President has tried to “create offences” that are not listed in the Act with this gazette and that this Act has been manipulated to restrict the freedom of peaceful assembly, freedom of movement, and freedom of expression of people.
The Secretary of the Ministry of Defense has been named as the competent authority to implement these orders.
The gazette states that “The competent authority may make provisions for the regulation of certain activates within the High Security Zones,” and that “The competent authority may issue commands incidentally from time to time for the proper implementation of these orders.”
That means that Kamal Gunarathna, a staunch dictator and Rajapaksa supporter who knows nothing about democracy and the law, can issue orders from time to time.
Speaking on a political platform earlier, he suggested that opponents should be shot below the knee. After Mahinda resigned, the cabinet disbanded, and he became just Kamal Gunaratne, he continued to issue statements as if he were the Secretary of the Ministry of Defense.
That means all these large areas are now unofficially Kamal Gunarathne’s private property. The gazette has not shown any limits to the commands that Kamal can issue. According to it, the duty of any person is to comply with his orders. It is not clearly stated in the gazette whether the orders should be obeyed only within the designated areas or outside them as well.
They may even issue orders to those outside of these areas saying that they are a threat to the security of those areas.
Section 5 is delightful! “Unless the prior written permission of the Inspector General of Police or Senior Deputy Inspector General of Police in charge of Western Province is obtained, no person shall conduct or hold a public gathering or procession whatsoever on a road, ground, shore or other open area situated within the High Security Zones.”
This means, for example, it is no longer possible to host parties in the outdoor areas of Galadari or Hilton without permission from Deshabandu Thennakoon and the Inspector General of Police. If you see such a gathering, do file a complaint immediately.
According to Section 6, you need permission for temporary or permanent constructions or to conduct an excavation in these high security areas. There are banks and other financial institutions in these areas. There are other institutions as well. You may have seen how they put up small kiosks in front of buildings for promotions or to provide other services. Now they also need permission from Deshabandu or the IGP.
Up next on the list of absurdities – you need Deshabandu or the IGP’s permission to park a vehicle in those areas. This means that according to this gazette, it is prohibited to park a vehicle in front of banks, in car parks and other places, including the Colombo Court Complex, Pitakotuwa, and around the Parliament.
Going even further, any person within these zones suspected of having committed an offense or violated the provisions of the orders can be searched or interrogated. They can be arrested, and bail can only be granted by a High Court. At present, bail is given by a Magistrate’s Court. In fact, the Acts that were previously used to suppressed protestors such as the Roads Act, Section 77 (1) of the Police Ordinance, and the provision on ‘unlawful assembly’ in the Penal Code, allowed for quick bail for cases of damage to public property and illegal blockade.
These new laws have been made on purpose to put people in jail.
Even more, a list of everyone permanently and temporarily residing in a high security zone should be handed over to the police in charge of that area, in addition to information on those working in all government and private offices. There are hundreds of thousands of people in these areas.
In those areas are offices of lawyers including lawyer Nuwan Bopage, who advocated for human rights, and trade union offices including the Ceylon Teachers Association.
Next, police officers can enter any premises and check if the sixth section of the orders are being violated.
One might think that the defense minister has been given some authority to create high security zones in Section 2 of the Official Secrets Act. No such authority is given.
Now you’re probably thinking how they could go above and beyond the rights protected by the constitution.
Article 14 of the third chapter of the Constitution states, “every citizen is entitled to – (a) the freedom of speech and expression including publication; (b) the freedom of peaceful assembly; (c) the freedom of association; (d) the freedom to form and join a trade union; (e) the freedom, either by himself or in association with others, and either in public or in private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching; (f) the freedom by himself or in association with others to enjoy and promote his own culture and to use his own language; (g) the freedom to engage by himself or in association with others in any lawful occupation, profession, trade, business or enterprise ; (h) the freedom of movement and of choosing his residence within Sri Lanka ; and (i) the freedom to return to Sri Lanka.”
Then Ranil Wickremasinghe, an old man struggling to maintain his power and has no public backing, is going to deny the very freedom given to the people in the first and third chapters of the constitution in clear language.
We can see the danger of this. We can see how illegal this is.
Number one among these areas is the Parliament complex.
Polduwa Junction to the Speaker’s Residence, Kumbukgaha Duwa Road, Rajamalwatta Road, Jayanthipura Junction, Jayanthipura Road and Parliament Road including Diyawanna Lake; Jayanthipura Junction to Outer Vehicle Park of the Parliament (Alcatraz Park), Parliament Ground, Keangnam Junction, Japan Sri Lanka Friendship Road, Pahalawela Road to Kimbulawala Junction including Diyawanna Lake. Kimbulawala Junction to Pin Niyara Junction of Thalawathugoda Road, Area up to Pin Niyara including Sudarshana Mawatha, Daham Mawatha, Gamage Mawatha, Eeyam Poruwa Temple Road, Byroads, and MP’s Quarters – Madiwela, Pita Wella Road at the back of MP’s Quarters including Diyawanna Lake. Pin Niyara Junction to Beddagana Junction of Thalawathugoda Road, Polduwa Junction including Diyawanna Lake along Beddagana Road, Polduwa Road, Wehera Kanda Road, Beddagana, Nippon Road.
In this area, ordinary people park their vehicles on the road and sell food. Now they need permission from Deshbandu.
The second part is the area where the Supreme Court Complex, High Court Complex, Colombo Magistrate Court Complex, and the Attorney General’s Department are located. Areas including Wellaweediya Road, Aluthkade Street to Belmont Street, Sanchi Arachchi Watta Road, Adhikarana Mawatha Junction, St. Sebastian Hill Street, and Mihindu Mawatha are in this area. Many of the people’s wholesale and retail shops, and many parking places for loading and unloading vehicles belong here. Now everyone must stand in a queue to get permission from Deshabandu Thennakoon.
The next area covers the Presidential Secretariat, the President’s House, Navy Headquarters, and Police Headquarters. This includes York Street, Lotus Junction, Regal Cinema, Morgan Road, Justice Akbar Mawatha, Scout Avenue, Galle Face Roundabout, and the Beach Area. That includes the Galle Face beach that belong to the people.
There are head offices of many major banks including the Bank of Ceylon and People’s Bank in this area. There are many places including One Galle Face and the Galle Face car park. Now, parking a bike, a car, or a three-wheeler there would require Deshabandu’s or the IGP’s permission.
Under the Air Force Headquarters area, Chittampalam Gardiner Mawatha, Morgan Road, Regal Hall to Judge Akbar Mawatha, the Beira Lake have been named. This area is home to one of Sri Lanka’s main trade union centers and the office of Sri Lanka Teachers’ Union, where activists often gather to discuss matters.
Flower Road, Ernest de Silva Mawatha, 5th Lane, and 27th Lane etc. come under the Prime Minister’s Office.
Temple Trees is the other area. It covers many areas around Rotunda Junction, Rotunda Roundabout, Perahera Mawatha, Alvis Road Junction, Dharmapala Mawatha, Perahera Mawatha Junction, from Colpetty Station to Colpetty, Colpetty Junction, Liberty Roundabout etc.
Yes, it means that even if you throw a party at Colpetty beach, or even if you stop the car for a while, you’re asking for trouble.
Even the quarters of a person who holds the made-up position of ‘Defense Secretary’ and those of the commanders of the three armed forces have been named. It belongs to the Bauddhaloka Mawatha. Jawatta Road, Keppetipola Mawatha, Sri Sambuddhathva Jayanti Mawatha, Thummulla Junction, Paget Road, Mahagamasekara Mawatha etc. are on the list of high security zones.
In reality, we know that this law does not prohibit meetings held by most people. The law does not apply to most of the vehicles parked in those areas.
This law applies only to a small, carefully selected group of people.
Another primary right protected by the third chapter of the Constitution is equal treatment for all. But it is impossible to apply this law to everyone equally.
This is not a law. This is Ranil’s madness. Ranil has gazetted his serious psychological mania. Ranil has no public mandate. He is most afraid of people. What he has gazetted is his fear of the people.