“Distributing handouts need no permission from anyone. It is a normal thing. Who should be arrested are those who drop the handouts in the streets” said the Additional Magistrate of Mt.Lavinia- Ruchira Weliwatte, yesterday, addressing Wellawatte Police.
He said so giving orders to release a person produced before for his alleged involvement in distributing handouts, charging him for spreading litter in public roads. The Magistrate ordered the produced suspect to be held free of all the charges.
The suspect had been caught distributing pamphlets promoting a tuition class in Wellawatte. At that point, the Police producing facts said for the distribution of such handouts, permission should be obtained from the Ministry of Higher Education as a current requirement.
Posters and leaflets not a crime: Tennakoon
Director of the Center for Human Rights (CHR) and Campaign for Free and Fair Election (CAFFE) Keerthi Tennakoon yesterday charged that it is a crime to arrest people under the National Environment Act for putting up posters and distributing leaflets stating that it is a violation of their freedom of expression.
Tennakoon said that in the recent past a large number of people all around the island have been arrested for putting up posters and giving out leaflets saying several people in the Katunayake area were recently arrested under the National Environment Act. He said that the Act does not allow arbitrary arrests.
“There is no provision in any law that permits the Police to arrest people for putting up posters or handing out leaflets. If there is such a law it should be implemented during election time when the putting up of posters, hoardings and cut-outs are at an all time high,” Tennakoon said.
He said that the purpose of the National Environment Act is solely to protect the environment and not to mitigate the rights of the people. “According to section 14 of the constitution not allowing the freedom of expression through such means is against the law,” he aid.
He said that CHR is currently carrying out a study to find out how many arrests have been made so far. Meanwhile according to recent reports the President has requested IGP Mahinda Balasuriya to stop detaining those who put up posters and distribute leaflets.