Opposition parties prevented from holding meetings

By Damith Wickremasekare

Opposition parties say they have been routinely forced to postpone or cancel public and party meetings over the past two weeks because of interference from third parties.

In the latest such incident, the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) was forced to cancel a meeting scheduled for yesterday evening at Delgoda, in the Gampaha district, after the owner of the hall where the meeting was to take place received threats from a third party.

In a separate incident, the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress had booked a hall in Kurunegala for a meeting to be held on Friday, but was forced to postpone the meeting after the owner of the venue received threats from persons saying he would be killed or the hall set on fire if the meeting took place.

JVP MP Sunil Handunetti told the Sunday Times that the government has been using strong arm tactics for the past two weeks to stop the JVP from holding public meetings.

The first incident was reported on November 30. The JVP had booked the Ananda Samarakoon outdoor stadium in Nugegoda for a rally, , and had paid a deposit to the Kotte Municipal Council. Three days before the rally, the Kotte Municipal Council informed the JVP that the stadium had been booked by Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama for a medical camp scheduled for the same day.

On December 7, General Sarath Fonseka was due to meet public representatives at Sausiripaya in Pelawatte. “The meeting was fixed for 3 pm. At 12.30 pm, the organizers received an official call to say the premises would not be available for the meeting,” Mr. Handunetti said.

The organisers scrambled to find an alternative venue and within two hours found one at the Colombo Town Hall. Mr. Handunetti said the JVP planned to hold a protest today in front of the Kolonnawa bus stand, in Wellampitiya.

He said most government-owned reception halls and auditoriums have been booked for the government election campaign. “This is challenging democracy. It is clear the President is playing the role of a dictator,” he said.

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