Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa, after visiting trade union activist Joseph Stalin who is detained by the Police, has urged President Ranil Wickremesinghe to end the harassment of opposition political activists, human rights defenders, and trade unionists,
“We need to stop violence. People have the freedom to protest. No one has the right to engage in violence, but Stalin was not involved in any violence. There is no evidence for that. Stalin has been arrested for exercising his constitutional rights. Stalin was arrested for holding a demonstration in May in violation of a court order. These arbitrary arrests are a disgrace,” he said.
Premadasa said that the country is facing hitherto unknown economic and political strife. This should be a time when the President and the leaders of the government reaches out to everyone, he said.
“I urge the government to get everyone united to rebuild the country. Don’t play political games because the people are tired. Don’t be lulled into complacency because the protests have lost some momentum. We need the government to stop this witch hunt, this state terrorism. Unleashing suppression is not how you gain legitimacy,” he said.
Premadasa said that when Ranil Wickremesinghe was an opposition MP, he had condemned the arrest of Stalin. At that time, Wickremesinghe said that Stalin was an internationally known trade unionist and that his arrest would have devastating international implications.
“Wickremesinghe said that Sri Lanka might lose the GSP+ concession because Stalin was arrested. What has changed now? The government can’t solve this through violence, this can only be done through by discussion,” he said.
The Opposition Leader said that Sri Lanka was stuck in a spiral of violence and that it was former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa who started it by attacking peaceful protestors on May 9 on Galle Face. Since then, there have been cycles of violence and counter violence and now everyone lives in fear, he said.
“Mahinda started it. What has happened to him? Has he been arrested? No, he is fine. He is enjoying himself at home. But Stalin is in jail for protesting. The law is being applied differently and it is too visible. These arrests are not a show of strength. People are just getting angry. We are all just marching blindly towards another cycle of violence,” he said.Stalin is the most senior activist to be arrested in a crackdown against protesters who forced Gotabaya Rajapaksa to flee last month.