CPA welcomes Supreme Court order on evictions
5th May 2008, Colombo, Sri Lanka: The Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) welcomes the Supreme Court order stating that future evictions should not take place unless in accordance with the law and with a judicial order. The order was by a three-member bench headed by the Chief Justice in the fundamental rights application filed by the Centre for Policy Alternatives and its Executive Director, Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu on the mass scale eviction of Tamils from Colombo that took place on the 7th of June 2007.
An interim order had already been issued by the Supreme Court on the 8th June 2007 on the same matter, under Article 12(1) and (2) and 14(1)(h). Further leave to proceed was granted based on Article 11, 13(1) and (2) of the Constitution on the 27th July 2007. The court further held that by issuing the interim order, the court recognized that there was an infringement under Article 11, 12(1) and (2), 13(1) and (2) and 14 (1)(h).
The petitioners argued that evicting Tamils from Colombo is wrongful, unlawful and illegal and violates the fundamental rights of those persons who were so evicted. CPA filed the case in response to the mass eviction of Tamils that took place on the 7th June 2007. As reported in the media, the operation commenced in the early hours of the morning, with police and army officers visiting various lodges occupied predominantly by Tamils in Colombo and forcibly them from their lodgings. It was reported that people were given less than half an hour to pack all their belongings and board buses. Newspaper reports also raised the issue as to what the police considered as being a valid reason, given that a patient undergoing treatment and a woman who was to be married within a few days in Colombo were among those evicted. The evictions were directly attributed to the statement made by the IGP on 1st June 2007, claiming that Tamil people cannot remain in Colombo without a valid reason. Subsequent to the interim order of the Supreme Court, many of the people evicted were brought back by the police to their lodging houses. On 10th June 2007 Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake expressed regrets to the hundreds of Tamils for their eviction from the city, saying it was a ‘big mistake’ by the government.
The petition held that the evictions violate the fundamental rights of those persons who were so evicted, guaranteed by Article 11, 12 (1), 12(2), 13(1), 13(2) and 14(1)(h) of the Constitution. Article 11 provides no person shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Article 12 provides that all citizens are equal before the law and ensures that no citizen shall be discriminated against grounds specified in the Constitution. Articles 13 (1) and (2) provide protection from arbitrary arrest and detention. Article 14 (1)(h) provides for the freedom of movement and the right to choose his residence within Sri Lanka.
Two other petitions filed by evicted persons were also taken up today by the Supreme Court.
M A Sumanthiran with Viran Corea, Sharmaine Gunaratne, Bhavani Fonseka, Hamsana Vamadeva and Ermiza Tegal Attorneys at Law appeared for the Petitioners instructed by Mr. Moahan Balendra. Additional Solicitor General Mr. Palitha Fernando, President’s Counsel appeared for the Respondents.
The Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) was formed in the firm belief that there is an urgent need to strengthen institution- and capacity-building for good governance and conflict transformation in Sri Lanka and that non-partisan civil society groups have an important and constructive contribution to make to this process.
The primary role envisaged for the Centre in the field of public policy is a pro-active and interventionary one, aimed at the dissemination and advocacy of policy alternatives for non-violent conflict resolution and democratic governance. Accordingly, the work of the Centre involves a major research component through which the policy alternatives advocated are identified and developed.