Supreme Court today held that the police assault on the peaceful demonstrators within the Katunayake Free Trade Zone in May, 2011 was a violation of their fundamental rights and directed the State to pay the petitioners compensation ranging from Rs.50,000 to Rs.250,000 payable by State.
Justice Buwaneka Aluvihara with Chief Justice Nalin Perera and Justice Priyantha Jayawardane agreeing held that the fundamental rights to the freedom of conscience, freedom from torture and freedom of association had been violated.
Rs.250,000 was awarded to the petitioner who was shot and grievously injured and Rs.100,000 to Rs.50,000 to the other petitioners.
The 14 petitioners cited Katunayake and Seeduwa Police Stations OICs, Negombo DIG, former IGP Mahinda Balasooriya, the Board of Investment, former army commander Lt. Gen. Jagath Jayasooriya and the Attorney General as respondents.
J.C.Weliamuna PC instructed by Gowry Shangary Thavarasha appeared for some of the petitioners while Saliya Peiris PC, Shantha Jayawardena, Chrishmal Warnasuriya, Uditha Egalahewa PC, Eraj de Silva, Niran Ankatell appeared for the other petitioners. Senior Deputy Solicitor General Parinda Ranasinghe appeared for the AG.
The petitioners said on May 30, 2011, about 600 people had gathered within the FTZ to protest against the Employees’ Pension Benefits Fund Bill while hundreds of police officers were deployed to quell the protest. They said at 12.03 p.m., the police officers present had without warning used tear gas on the unarmed peaceful protesters to disperse them.
They said hundreds of police officers armed with firearms and iron poles assaulted the FTZ workers and some police officers threw stones and other unidentified objects at them while they were attempting to flee.
The petitioners said the conduct of the police officers violated the legitimate expression of their dissent and deprived them of their right to freedom of expression, freedom of speech and freedom of peaceful assembly as well as their right to freedom from torture and arbitrary arrest. (S.S.Selvanayagam)