The Free Media Movement (FMM) notes with serious concern the implications for the freedom of assembly, association and to form and join a trade union connoted by a recent judgment of the District Court of Negombo in Case No. 2835/5. In this case, according to a statement issued by the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), a permanent injunction has been issued by the District Court of Negombo, against a human rights group called ‘Right to Life’, debarring the said organisation and four of its members from engaging in acts of peaceful protest in the exercise of rights guaranteed by international human rights and labour law, the Sri Lankan Constitution, the Trade Union Ordinance, and according to well-established principles of the common law of Sri Lanka.
The right to engage in peaceful protests is considered as exercising freedom of expression rights in any democratic society.
The District Court of Negombo appears to have acted in total ignorance of the law of the land. The freedoms of assembly, association and to form and join a trade union are guaranteed by Article 14 of the Constitution, and which rights have been given widespread effect by the Supreme Court.
These rights are furthermore established in statutory law by the Trade Union Ordinance, and also by the common law of Sri Lanka in a tradition of protecting employment rights that goes back decades in this country. Moreover, as the AHRC statement notes, the court seems not have directed its mind to the various objections raised on behalf of ‘Right to Life’ and its four members, and consequently has arrived at a decision that is entirely incongruous not only with established provisions and principles of law, but also common sense.
This type of inexplicable behaviour by the judiciary results in the erosion of public confidence in the independence and competence of the judiciary and therefore of democratic institutions in Sri Lanka.
FMM stands in solidarity with ‘Right to Life’ and its members, and hopes that those restrained by this obnoxious injunction will resort to the available legal avenues of appeal to have the order vacated immediately.