A group of citizens representing the media, civil society and trade unions have voiced their grave concerns about the attempts by the government to take the country into a dictatorship by bringing repressive laws restricting the public’s right to expression, right to organize and space for civil activities quite contrary to the basic values of the democracy.

Issuing a joint statement, they observed that planning to pass the Online Safety Bill next week, tabling of the Anti Terrorism Bill in Parliament and other repressive laws show the country that attempts are being made to suppress the public’s right to expression as a narrow effort with the aim of winning the upcoming elections at any cost.

The statement further said;

"We, as signatories to this statement as citizens, civil activists and trade unionists that hold the sovereignty of the country firmly believe a President who was not elected through a public mandate and a parliament consisting of rejected public representatives does not have a moral right to pass repressive legislation and impose new laws.

The forthcoming election is crucial for the country as it's going to be held following the people’s struggle, which was triggered due to unbearable pressure mounted on the public, to demand a system change and democratic governance that is not corrupt and people-friendly. It is essential to ensure that the next election is free and fair, providing a public platform for debate and discussion without any censorship to access information that is accurate, balanced, impartial and non-partisan. All opportunities should be guaranteed for the ruling party as well as for the opposition parties to inform their ideas and policies to the public.

Laws that are silencing and terrifying citizens are causing harm to the people’s friendly environment and democracy. A country which has been brought to the brink of destruction by some politicians and corrupt officials for a long time no longer needs dictatorial rulers sitting above the law. Therefore, as a citizens' collective force, we urge the President and the government, opposition and all political parties representing the parliament to create a democratic environment.

The Online Safety Bill presented by the government was challenged before the Supreme Court by 45 petitioners. At the outset of the hearing, the Attorney General's Department submitted over 32 amendments to the bill. Following the hearing, the Supreme Court determined that 31 clauses needed to be amended.

The Asian Internet Coalition, consisting of world-renowned companies, pointed out to the subject minister in two long letters; one before the Supreme Court determination and another followed by, that the principles of international regulation had been violated by the bill. The validity of the bill was completely annulled following the Supreme Court ruling. A civilized government should have thrown it into the dustbin. However, the government led by the President has made a shameful attempt to pass the bill with amendments by presenting it to the parliament again on 23 January.

The Attorney General's Department was disgraced on the first day itself as the Attorney General had to propose amendments to the bill when it was challenged before the Supreme Court. It indicated that the AG had cleared and presented the draft bill, prepared by someone else without doing a proper study of it. In our opinion as a collective, it is that the Attorney General should resign in order to compensate for the disgrace caused to the department. Our stand is that the government should immediately withdraw this defect bill without causing further disgrace to the country internationally.

We believe that there is no requirement for a draft bill to control the internet as the country has enough legislation in place to counter crimes occurring on the internet.

Legal experts have pointed out that the amendments recommended by the Supreme Court to the Online Safety Bill were not taken appropriately by the Public Security Minister for the second reading of the bill in the parliament. They are of the view that it’s a serious situation. We urge the government to immediately withdraw the bill without being presented for second reading. If the government still wants a bill, it can be decided upon through a lengthy consultation with stakeholders as requested by the Asian Internet Coalition, embassies and the United Nations.

Acting Inspector General of Police Deshabandu Tennakoon was convicted by the Supreme Court for torture and cruel treatment. However, the President and the government continue to keep him in the position of ignoring and undermining the judiciary, a basic pillar of sovereignty. This shows the government’s desire to move towards a dictatorship. Meanwhile, the government is also attempting to bring a single act named the Employment Bill replacing 13 acts including the Trade Unions Ordinance, Industry Dispute Act and Wages Council Ordinance affecting over 3.6 million private sector employees and without reaching an agreement with trade unions.

We recognize it as another sign of the dictatorship through the various repressive actions by the government against trade unions and civil society against their right to organize and the bill on Non-Governmental Organizations. We demand the government to withdraw all these bills immediately and enter a consultation process with stakeholders.

If the government still attempts to present the bills by ignoring all these factors, we respectfully urge the progressive MPs of the ruling party as well as all MPs in the opposition to defeat them at the second reading. We emphasize as a citizens' collective; we won’t hesitate to take all measures through democratic means to defeat all the MPs who will vote in favor of the bills without responding to the people's voice.

We condemn the president’s attempt to become a dictator using executive powers amidst all these developments. We urge all political parties and also propose all public representatives to commit to building a democratic country where all citizens can live with respect and dignity by abolishing the executive presidential system before the next election or in a very short period of time."

A list of persons and organizations that signed the above statement representing the media, civil society, and trade unions are mentioned below.

Free Media Movement

Sri Lanka Working Journalists’ Association

Young Journalists’ Association of Sri Lanka

Media Law Forum

Law and Society Trust

National Cooperative Development Fund

Hashtag Generation

Association of Health Professionals

Sri Lanka Postal and Telecommunication Service Union

All Ceylon Management Service Officers’ Union

South Asia Free Media Association

Ceylon Teachers’ Union

Ceylon Trade Union Federation

United Postal Trade Union Front

Savisthri National Women’s Moment

Uva Wellassa Women’s Organization

Movement for the Defence of Democratic Rights (MDDR)

Free Media Movement Tarde Union (FMMTU)

Ceylon Teachers’ Union

Moment for Land and Agriculture Reform (MONLAR)

National Fisheries Solidarity Movement (NAFSO)

Shramabhimani Center

Dabidu Collective

Women’s Action for Social Justice (WASJ)

United Federation of Labour (UFL)

Federation of Media Employees Trade Unions (FMETU)

Muslim Media Forum

Jaffna Press Club

Tamil Women Journalists Association

Tamil Media Alliance

Transparency International Sri Lanka

Free Trade Zone Union

South Asian Women in Media Network- Sri Lanka

Ceylon Bank Employees Union (CBEU)

South Asian Free Media Association

People’s Commission of Women in Sri Lanka

The Voice of Truth

Stand Up Movement in Sri Lanka

Trade Union to Upliftment of Sri Lanka Railway

Freedom Trade Union Center (FTUC)

Prabha Abhilasha Network

People’s Alliance for Right to Land (PARL)

Voice of the plantation people organization (VoPP)

Sri Lanka All Telecommunication Employees’ Union

Unite – Trade Union and Mass Organization Collective


RED Organization

Nature Foundation

Media Pro-Tech

PEN Sri Lanka

National Movement for Social Justice

Standup Workers Union

Asian Media and Cultural Association

Women Center Sri Lanka

Protect Union

Human Rights Documentation Center (INFORM)

Father Sarath Iddamalgoda

Prof Arjuna Pararkarama

Prof Liyanage Amarakeerthi

Prof Nirmal Ranjith Dewasiri

Prof Vijaya Jayathilaka

Dr Ravindra kariyawasam

Dr Rathna Sri Wijesinghe

Dr Kalpa Rajapaksa

Senior Lecturer Anuruddha Pradeep Karnasuriya

Thusitha Siriwardena, Attorney at Law

D M Dissanayake, Attorney at Law

Journalist Seetha Ranjanee

Journalist Hana Ibrahim

Journalist Upali Kolambage

Journalist Ananda Dharmapriya Jayasekara

Journalist Thimbiriyagama Bandara

Journalist Saroj Pathirana

Journalist T M G Chandrasekara

Senior researcher Sarath Kellapatha

Journalist Tharindu Iranga Jayawardena

Journalist Sujeewa Senarath

Littérateur S Nandalal

Social Activist Jayani Abeysekara

Journalist Jayasiri Jayasekara

Journalist Prasad Poornimal

Journalist Shalika Wimalasena

Civil and Human Rights Activist Cyril Pathirage

Creativist Nandasiri Dhrmaratne

Dramatist and Civil Activist Roy Rodrigo

Journalist Indika Roshan Garusinghe

Journalist Chamara Sampath

Civil and Human Rights Activist Suranga Rupasinghe

Journalist Priyan R Wijebandara

Environmentalist Hemantha Withanage

Environmentalist Sajeewa Chamikara

Trade Unionist Chinthaka Bandara

Dramatist Ranasinghe Adhikari

Lyricist Sudath Gamini Bandara

Social Activist Thamara Dayani Heetimullage

Shrinath Perera, Attorney at Law

Journalist Nayanajeewa Bandara

K.W. Janaranjana, Attorney at Law

Journalist K. Sanjeewa

Journalist Lasantha Ruhunage

Journalist Sunil Jayasekara

Journalists Sakeef

Marine Engineer Kamal Wanniarachchi

Social Activist Manjula Gajanayake

Journalist Manjula Wediwardhana

Social Activist Udaya Kalupathirana

Economist Umesh Moramudali

Social Activist Sandaya Eknaligoda

Journalist Poddala Jayantha

Journalist Thushara Weerarathna

Journalist Jini Jayasekara

Journalist R. Yasiharan

Social Activist Saman Senevirathna

WhatsApp Image 2023 08 02 at 15.09.47

Follow Us


Exchange Rates


Electric Bill