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Police attack, assault demonstrators at protest march

(FMM/IFEX) - Free Media Movement (FMM) unreservedly condemns the attack by the police on a peaceful protest held on August 12, 2010 by the People's Liberation Front (JVP) that called for the immediate release of General Sarath Fonseka. FMM also denounces the subsequent arrest of a group of people, including two MPs, who were assaulted in police custody.

FMM firmly believes that this act grossly violated freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and the right to hold political ideas, as protected by the Constitution and are enshrined in the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

According to reports, police attacked the peaceful demonstrators with tear gas. The demonstrators hurled stones at the police to protest this undemocratic act and police arrested several people following the incident. JVP MPs Vijitha Herath, Ajith Kumara and Provincial Councillor Nalin Hewage, went to the police station in Galle to lodge a complaint against the police's undemocratic action to suppress the peaceful demonstration and to demand that the police release the people who had been arrested and assaulted by the police.

This undemocratic act on the part of the police has endangered the peoples' right to freedom of speech. It is also an example of preferential treatment. In an earlier incident when a government minister went on a hunger strike, an official government spokesman said that it is the democratic right of any person to demonstrate, protest and go on a hunger strike. That hunger strike, which disrupted the UN's main office in Colombo, was given police protection. However, when JVP launched a peaceful protest, it found that its democratic right had been curtailed. FMM warns the public that it will have to face adverse consequences if it remains silent about these types of undemocratic acts which violate freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and the right to hold political ideas and support those ideas.

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