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FMM condemns suppression of political protest by ruling party politicians, fears new round of human rights violations

(FMM/IFEX) - The following is a 10 June 2008 FMM press release:

Politically motivated attack on peaceful protests

FMM condemns the politically-motivated attack on two protests organized by the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) political party on 8 and 9 June 2008. The protest was organized under the theme of "hands off democracy; defend people's freedom of expression rights and right to protest". According to the JVP, the attack was led by ruling party politicians from the area.

FMM views this attack as a direct threat to people's right to peacefully protest, a right that is inseparable from the right to freedom of expression. At the same time, FMM expresses its fears that this attack might be the harbinger of another round of violations of basic human rights in Sri Lanka. This trend of unleashing violence against peaceful protests by political gangs must be condemned by all democratic forces.

To engage in peaceful protest and dissent is a right guaranteed by the Constitution. This right has been ratified by the Supreme Court on many occasions. Freedom of expression is a universal right. Members of the JVP, or of any other political party, are entitled to enjoy this right.

FMM does not believe that police will take any meaningful action to bring the culprits in this case to justice, or to stop the trend of political violence. These doubts stem from two reasons: These attacks are being masterminded and carried out by politicians who belong to the ruling party. Secondly, the police department has been politicized to such an extent that it has become a part of the political machinery of the ruling party.

The only way to defeat these anti-democratic trends is to reestablish the rule of law. If the rule of law is not reestablished in the country, the erosion of basic democratic rights - including the right to free expression - will continue unabated.

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