Sri Lanka’s police and army have removed anti-government protesters from the fort ramparts overlooking the ground at Galle, on each of the first two days of the ongoing Test against Australia. The public is ordinarily allowed to hold banners and placards as they view the match from the fort. These are mostly related to cricket.
However, these protesters had held placards asking for the resignation of Sri Lanka’s president Gotabaya Rajapaksa, and have as a result been removed, even though the ramparts are public space. Among the authorities’ concerns had been that a protest overlooking the cricket would be caught on the official broadcast, or be reported on by the international media.
ESPNcricinfo understands, however, that Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) has told the game’s broadcasters not to show images of any protests. Some Australian and international media, though, have reported the wider context in which this series is occurring.
In response to the protesters’ removal, the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) has told the police and army that there exists no basis in law for their removal.
“It also been drawn to our attention that the particular area of the ramparts of the Galle Fort are public areas and hence that there is no lawful reason to disperse protestors,” the BASL said in a letter addressed to the Commander of the Sri Lankan Army, and the Inspector General of Police. “We continue to remind you of the importance of allowing people to exercise their freedom of speech and expression including their right to dissent. The suppression of the people’s right to protest and dissent is not the answer to the present situation in the country where the people are facing untold hardships due to shortages of fuel and other essentials.”
Sri Lanka is experiencing its worst economic crisis in generations, which has left the country desperately short of cooking gas, fuel, and essential medicines, as well as raised the cost of living substantially. As a result, there have been widespread protests in the country through the course of the year.
SLC has essentially banned protests inside its grounds this series, preventing spectators from bringing anti-government placards and banners into its venues, although posters thanking Australia for touring were allowed.