By Shamindra Ferdinando
In the wake of President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s declaration in parliament that the armed forces would be deployed to quell fresh unauthorised anti-government protests meant to oust his government, Public Security Minister Tiran Alles yesterday (24) said that UN Resident Representative Hanna Singer-Hamdy was quite pleased with the way law enforcement authorities had controlled the recent Opposition protests.
Minister Alles said so when The Island asked the SLPP National List lawmaker the outcome of his meet with the top UN official at his ministry on Wednesday (23).
The Minister said that the UN official had appreciated the police response to the 02 Nov., Opposition protest that was blocked near the Technical junction, Maradana. Asked to explain, Minister Alles said that the police had refrained from using water cannon and tear gas and dispersed the crowd though quite a crowd gathered at the behest of political parties and trade unions.
The one-on-one took place at the ministry where they exchanged views on a spate of public protests in the past few months. Ministry spokesperson Akila Tennakoon quoted the UN official as having assured Minister Alles of the continuing UN support for the ongoing operations meant to curb narcotics as well as assistance to Non Govermental Organizations (NGOs).
Responding to another query, Minister Alles emphasised that President Wickremesinghe reiterated in parliament on Wednesday (23) the government stand on the protests. ‘We have said this repeatedly. Unauthorised protests will not be allowed under any circumstances. There is absolutely no change in that position,” Minister Alles said.
Alles is the fourth lawmaker to handle public security since the last parliamentary election. Chamal Rajapaksa, Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera and Prasanna Ranatunga handled public security portfolio before Tiran Alles received the appointment.
Protests meant to disrupt public life and economy wouldn’t be tolerated, Minister Alles said adding that, the UN Resident Representative comment indicated the response of the international community to the developments here.
The meeting between Public Security Minister and UN Resident Representative took place in the wake of media disclosure that SSP G.H. Marapone, in charge of Colombo South Division declined to carry out unauthorized directives. The reports followed a meeting Minister Alles had with senior police officers, including IGP C.D. Wickremaratne on Nov 15. Civil society activist and attorney-at-law Nagananda Koditiwakku while appreciating the stand taken by SSP Marapone urged law enforcement authorities not to follow illegal orders issued by the government.
SSP Marapone declined to comment on the issue at hand. The official suggested that The Island contact the police spokesperson.When Minister Alles has queried the failure on the part of the police to arrest former MP Hirunika Premachandra engaged in a protest outside UN, Colombo, the SSP, South is reported to have explained there was no basis for arrests. The IGP, too, has pointed out that arrests outside the UN, Colombo could have caused problems.
The recent arrest of two women demanding the immediate release of those who had been remanded under the terms of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) in Panadura though been ignored earlier by the Kollupitiya police, too, had been discussed at the meeting chaired by Minister Alles.
Police spokesperson SSP Nihal Thalduwa said that the issue at hand had been discussed at the conference chaired by the Public Security Minister and the officer concerned responded to the questions raised therein. Attorney-at-Law Thalduwa said that the former MP and 14 others were subsequently arrested after they blocked the Cinnamon Gardens police on Nov 14. They were granted bail by Colombo Chief Magistrate Nandana Amarasinghe. They were released on cash bail of Rs. 10,000 and a surety bail of Rs. 5 million each. The case was then ordered to be postponed until February 13, 2023.