FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION SRI LANKA

For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya

Poster crackdown: Opposition sees red over police green excuse

By Damith Wickremasekara

Opposition parties yesterday slammed Police Spokesman for his claim that last week’s orders by Police Headquarters to pull down posters, was a move to keep the environment clean.

They charged that SP Prashantha Jayakody was now making false claims in an attempt to cover up a police move to crackdown on an anti-government poster campaign.

UNP General Secretary Tissa Attanayaka said the move was aimed at curtailing democratic rights of the people as the police would be able to interpret any type of poster as anti-government.

“If we put up a poster demanding a salary increase or calling for the reduction of the high cost of living, the police could say it is an anti government poster that would provoke the public and take action. Therefore this is a dangerous trend,” he warned.

“The Police Spokesman is trying to cover up government action by claiming it was a move to protect the environment whereas already orders had gone out to take action to pull down anti-government posters,” he said.

“After the police order was exposed in the papers, the government was embarrassed and the police spokesman is now making a false claim to cover it up,” he said. DNA Gampaha District MP Vijitha Herath said the move was a clear attempt to suppress information reaching the public.

“The police are trying to misguide the public, claiming that the posters are an environmental issue. If that is the case the cutouts of the President should be brought down first,” he said. Mr. Herath said they hope to take legal action as putting up posters was a democratic right.

Leader of the Democratic People’s Alliance Mano Ganeshan told the Sunday Times that as the joint opposition they hope to protest against the restriction. “It is clear that the government is scared of posters and the Police are trying to cover up for the faults of the government,” he said.

New Left Front Leader Dr. Wickemabahu Karunaratna said the government was using emergency regulations to curtail the democratic rights of the people. “The government cannot take away the rights of the people and the police cannot make false claims such as the environment being damaged,” he charged.

Last week the Sunday Times exclusively reported that Senior DIG (Administration) N.K.Illangakoon had sent out a circular informing all police stations about an islandwide poster campaign and instructed the police to pull down the posters and arrest any persons putting them up.
http://www.sundaytimes.lk/101010/News/nws_12.html

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