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Sri Lankan group condemns police attack on protesting students

Statement issued by FMM on 31 October 2015.

Free Media Movement (FMM) strongly condemns the 29 October 2015 police attack against the students registered in the Higher National Diploma in Engineering (HNDE) programme. The students were protesting in front of the University Grant Commission (UGC) in Colombo, calling on officials to address various issues, including the re-recognition of the HNDE as equivalent to an undergraduate degree. FMM considers the police attack a gross violation of the right to protest, which is one of the main channels civilians use to fight for their rights.

Instead of listening to and responding to the students' requests, police barriers were used to suppress the student protests. The media widely reported on how inhumanely the students were attacked by the police. When the students attempted to enter the UGC premises they were met with resistance from the police who used high-pressure water hoses and teargas. Some police officers chased after the students who ran into the nearby market stalls to get away and beat them. It is also reported that several students were arrested.

The response harkens back to a darker past in Sri Lanka's history when peaceful meetings, free expression, and protests demanding rights were brutally suppressed; it also creates a negative image about the country as a state which neglects global human rights standards. This This incident should not have happened under a regime which came into power with the promise of 'Yahapanalana', or good governance. In the name of so promised 'Yahapalanya', FMM strongly demands an impartial investigation into this attack from President Maithreepala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickaramasinghe. It also calls for action against the Police which suppressed the students using undue force; and any other higher authority who was responsible for having instructed the police to behave in this manner should be taken to task.

Seetha Ranjanee

C. Dodawatte


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