July 04, Colombo: The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) Monday has sent a letter to the President Gotabaya Rajapaksa warning of the serious consequences that could arise as a result of clashes between civilians and the armed forces or the police at petrol stations.
Whilst keeping in mind that the police and armed forces are acting under very trying circumstances, the Bar Association has expressed its gravest concerns at the current situation at fuel stations throughout the country and the reports of several incidents of conflicts between civilians and members of the police force and the armed forces at fuel stations
"Your Excellency is no doubt aware that thousands of desperate civilians are waiting in queues at hundreds of fuel stations in the country. The queues are kilometers long. The tension at the fuel stations have arisen from this desperation for which there is no immediate solution in sight,” the BASL wrote to the President.
Asking the President to take measures to alleviate the situation, the BASL warned the President of the imminent dangers this situation could give rise to resulting in a conflagration between civilians and members of the armed forces or the police.
The BASL recalling that some years ago, confrontations between members of the public and the armed forces resulted in the deaths of civilians, said such incidents between the members of the armed forces or the police and the civilians will discredit Sri Lanka’s armed forces and the police.
The BASL called upon the President to take all necessary steps to give instructions to the Defense Secretary, the Commanders of the Tri Forces and the inspector General of Police to ensure that there is an immediate de-escalation of the situation in different parts of the country — especially at fuel stations - understanding the difficulties faced by public.
“Whilst keeping in mind that the police and armed forces are acting under very trying circumstances, nevertheless it is necessary to give strict instructions to the police and the forces to desist from violence in dealing with the public and to act with utmost restraint,” the BASL said.
The Bar Association also called upon the President to ensure that steps be taken under the law to deal with errant officers who have subjected civilians to such violence.
The BASL emphasized that the Sri Lanka Army and other service personnel must be deployed only in very limited circumstances as contemplated in the Criminal Procedure Code.
“The BASL is of the view that it is not appropriate for service personnel to be deployed in the present manner in matters which essentially should be managed by the Sri Lanka Police. The Armed Forces should also not be used to disturb or hinder peaceful protests as was seen last week in Galle.”
The Bar Association said the ultimate solution to the situation at fuel stations is to be transparent with the public and to ensure an equitable and effective system of fuel distribution throughout the country.