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Sri Lanka: Declaration of the State of Emergency Statements by Bar Association of Sri Lanka & Centre for Policy Alternatives - July 18, 2022

Wednesday 20 July 2022, by siawi3


Sri Lanka: Declaration of the State of Emergency Statements by Bar Association of Sri Lanka & Centre for Policy Alternatives - July 18, 2022

Published 19 July 22





The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) notes that a State of Emergency has been declared by the Acting President with effect from 18th July 2022, the third time since April 1" 2022 that the country has been placed under the same. On one such occasion the State of Emergency was rescinded by the President before any Regulations were made thereunder and on the other occasion the Proclamation was not placed before Parliament and lapsed although Regulations including several provisions impinging on the fundamental rights of people were published. The State of Emergency has been declared three days before Parliament is to elect a successor to the office of President.

As noted in its previous statements, consequent to the declaration of a State of Emergency the Acting President is empowered to make Emergency Regulations which can override, amend or suspend the provision of any law, except the provisions of the Constitution. Emergency Regulations could be used to detain persons bypassing the ordinary courts process. In the past Emergency Regulations have led to many abuses on the part of the authorities which are reflected in the numerous decisions of our courts.

The BASL is of the view that at a time when the election to the office of President has been scheduled in Parliament, the Emergency Regulations must not be used to suppress any legitimate expression of opinion on the election of the President nor to suppress any dissent or disagreement on a particular candidate.

The BASL also notes that in terms of the law any attempt to unduly influence a Member of Parliament or bribing a Member of Parliament in respect of his vote is a specific offence under the law. Any attempt to use any threat, undue influence, coercion or bribe to influence such vote will be illegal and should not be condoned.

However, it must also be noted that whilst undue influence or threats are prohibited, the law does not preclude a member of the public from expressing his or her view on the election or the choice of a particular candidate or the relative merits or demerits of a candidate at the election.

The BASL is firmly of the view that the right to protest and the right to dissent are important aspects of the fundamental rights of the people including the freedom of expression and the freedom of peaceful assembly. The BASL reiterates that the State of Emergency must not be used to stifle peaceful protests and dissent or to make arbitrary arrests and detentions.

Fundamental Rights are of course subject to the restrictions set out in Article 15 of the Constitution including in the interests of public order. However, any restrictions that are imposed by law must be proportionate and reasonable. As the BASL has noted time and again if a peaceful protest becomes violent, that will only dilute the objective and purpose of a peaceful expression of dissent and strengthen the hands of those who seek to suppress legitimate dissent. Those engaged in protests must take utmost care to ensure that such protests remain peaceful and must be wary of persons who might seek to cause violence and destruction during such protests.

The BASL remains of the view that a declaration of a state of emergency is not the answer to the present situation in the country, including the spate of public protests which have occurred which resulted in the eventual resignation of the former President.

In the aforesaid, the BASL calls upon the Acting President to forthwith revoke the proclamation declaring a State of Emergency, and to ensure that the fundamental rights of the people such as the freedom of expression including the freedom of speech and publication and the freedom of peaceful assembly which are all aspects of the sovereignty of the people are respected and protected and not violated by the State or its agents.


President Saliya Pieris PC Deputy President, Anura Meddegoda PC Secretary, Isuru Balapatabendi Treasurer, Rajindh Perera Assistant Secretary, Mehran Careem

No. 153, Mihindu Mawatha, Colombo 12. Sri Lanka, Telephone : +94 11 2447134, +94 11 2331697. Fax : +94 11 2448090 E-mail: basi lawnet[at] Web:

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CPA Statement on the declaration of a State of Emergency on the 18th July 2022

18th July 2022, Colombo, Sri Lanka: The Centre of Policy Alternatives (CPA) expresses its grave concern about yet another declaration of a State of Emergency by way of Gazette Extraordinary No. 2288/30, dated 17th July 2022. This is the first such declaration by Acting President Ranil Wickremasinghe since assuming office on the 15th of July 2022, and the third such declaration in the country in the past four months. Former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa previously declared a state of emergency twice this year, and thrice in the course of his presidency.

CPA reiterates that a State of Emergency can only be declared in limited and exceptional circumstances, and deplores the abuse of this power by successive Presidents when no such emergency exists, as a form of suppression of public dissent. This extraordinary power, which allows the President law making power which goes beyond ordinary legislative bounds, should be limited to the most critical of instances, and not as a personal tool of abuse by Presidents seeking to protect their own interests. CPA does not believe that circumstances exist which warrant the imposition of a State of Emergency, and call on the Acting President to make clear the circumstances in which a State of Emergency was imposed. In the absence of any credible explanation, the declaration of Emergency is indicative of more insidious means, ultimately stifling dissent.

CPA notes that this measure is anyway counterproductive at a time when Sri Lanka is facing an unprecedented political and economic crisis, and when the priority of the government must be to ensure stability and address the economic hardships and the food insecurity experienced by a significant portion of the population. It is unfortunate that the government is failing in its primary responsibility of providing for and protecting the rights of the citizenry, and opting for arbitrary measures that further erode the trust in government and governance. Thus, CPA urges the Acting President to immediately revoke the Proclamation declaring a State of Emergency and to take all steps to uphold the fundamental rights of citizens and democratic processes in Sri Lanka.

Centre for Policy Alternatives
Centre for Policy Alternatives (Guarantee) Limited | 6/5, Layards Road, Colombo 5, Sri Lanka
Tel: ++94112081384, +94112081385, +94112081386 | Fax: +9411 2081388 | Email: info[at] | Web: