ECONONYNEXT – More than 300 lawyers appeared on behalf of the 53 people to ensure the rule of law, a senior lawyer said on Saturday, a day after a court granted bail for police-detained suspects following a violent protest near President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s Mirihana private residence.

Police used tear gas and water cannons late on Thursday to disperse hundreds of protesters who tried to enter Rajapaksa’s residence after a silent protest turned violent.

Except six, all other arrested people were granted bail after police failed to present any strong evidence that the arrested people were involved in damaging public properties. The six under arrest will be produced in an identification parade.

“This is a victory for lawyers,” senior lawyer Saadi Wadood, who appeared on behalf of arrested people, told Economy Next.

“Large number of lawyers voluntarily came forward to ensure the right of the people to express their displeasure is safeguarded.”

Most lawyers stayed most of the Friday at Mirihana police, they called for help from other seniors, ensured all the arrested people were produced in the court and then appeared on behalf of them.

The lawyers included Saliya Pieris, the president of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka, some of the senior civil and criminal lawyers, and their juniors.

All the lawyers first presented to Mirihana police station where the most detained were kept, applauded their braveness by clapping when the arrested people were taken by the police to bus which took them to Nugegoda Magistrate court before gathering in the court.

“All the lawyers came forward because we thought we have a moral duty to make sure the rule of law prevailed,” Wadood said,

“This is the first time we have seen lawyers voluntarily coming together after former Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake was removed in 2013,” Wadood said.

Bandaranayake was impeached by the parliament when she opposed a poverty alleviation bill by current finance minister Basil Rajapaksa when his brother and current prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa was the president.

Bandaranayake was later reinstated in 2015 under a new government before she retired.

Thursday’s protest came amid continuous suffering by the public who were forced to go from pillar to post to find cooking gas, fuel, and milk powder while the power cut duration was extended to a record 13 hours on that day.

The mismanagement of economic policies have resulted in severe dollar shortage and that has resulted in lack of import of essential goods and fuel.

Wadood, however, said protesters also have a duty to make sure they do not resort to any violence.

“People have the fundamental rights to express their displeasure without crossing the limit. If somebody within the group or a third party is trying to create violence. It’s their duty to prevent such violence.”

The protesters had been demanding Rajapaksa to step down citing he has failed to address the ongoing economic crisis amid queues for fuel and cooking gas as well as nearly half a day power cut on a daily basis. (Colombo/April 2/2022)