CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance and The Innovation for Change South Asia Hub are extremely concerned about the political crisis in Sri Lanka and its impact on the rule of law and civic space in the country.
We are gravely concerned that President Maithripala Sirisena has undermined the rule of law by unconstitutionally removing the sitting Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and replacing him with former President and current Member of Parliament Mahinda Rajapaksa overnight. Rajapaksa’s administration was implicated in serious violations during the final stages of Sri Lanka’s civil war and the suppression of freedoms of the media, expression, and association.
This was followed by a decision to undemocratically suspend Parliament denying Members of Parliament, who exercise sovereignty on the peoples’ behalf, the ability to assemble at this crucial time. We demand that the Parliament be reconvened immediately allowing representatives of the people to decide the way forward and to prevent the nation from plunging into a state of political instability and impunity.
Our organisations are also alarmed by reports of the forcible take-over of state media institutions and intimidation of journalists disrupting the free flow of information to the public. We condemn such actions and call on the authorities to ensure that press freedom, a crucial component of a democracy is respected.
We are also concerned that these political developments may put the civic freedom of Sri Lankans at risk. Citizens must be allowed to exercise their rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association.
We hope that Sri Lanka’s democratic gains of the past several years will not be lost and we stand in solidarity with civil society and human rights defenders from Sri Lanka at this difficult time.