Agitation Site to ease traffic | Sunday Observer

Agitation Site to ease traffic

A group of  protesters at the  Agitation Site.
A group of protesters at the Agitation Site.

“I think this is a brilliant idea. Now we do not have to stay in traffic for hours because some people are protesting,” waiting for the bus to go home Sri Lanka Telecommunications employee Mallika Ranaweera said.

She was referring to the new designated ‘Agitation Site’ that was set up near the Presidential Secretariat near Galle Face in Colombo.

The space is allocated for the public to carry out protests and demonstrations. A trilingual sign board was placed at the site this week for clarity.

The government said that no action will be taken against people protesting outside the agitation site for the ‘time being’.

Making good use of the new area for agitation, the All Ceylon Dengue Irradiation Programme Assistants’ Association (Central Province) staged a protest on Thursday (6) and continued till Friday. The protesters were demanding due recognition to their profession.

Meeting the group at the Agitation Site, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has promised to recruit 1,300 of them as part of the government’s 100,000 job opportunities programme initiated by the Multi-purpose Development Task Force.

Ranaweera is happy too. Usually she would stay in the bus for at least an hour when protectors blocked roads. The roads the protesters targeted were mostly the highly congested ones.

“People have a right to protest but if they protest when the government has promised a solution it affects the public,” Central Bank Supervisor Ayomi Chandrika said.

Therefore the new site is ideal for the protestors to voice their concerns and for the public to get along with their work, she said.

However, not everyone welcomed the initiation of the site. HNDA students on Wednesday (5) staged a protest in front of the Presidential Secretariat blocking the Galle Road causing a severe traffic jam along the area. The students, among other demands, were protesting against the new site.

Speaking to the Sunday Observer Convener of the Inter-University Students’ Federation (IUSF) Rathkarawwe Jinarathana Thera said the government is missing the mark with its new move.

“People take to streets to protest not because they enjoy it but because they are forced to do so. The government may think that they like to protest but that is wrong and with the new site they are creating that ideology- that all this is done for fun - among the public,” the IUSF convener said.

He explained that people protests are not hindering the public’s day to day lives but it is the government’s inability to provide solutions that is causing the issues, but with the Agitation Site the role is being reversed.

Private sector employee Kasun Sampath drives to work along the 138 bus route, a common target of protesters.

He said there are times he missed work deadlines or went back home exhausted after getting caught in traffic that was caused by a protest.

“All they do is cause people like us trouble. Then when the authorities fail to give a solution they protest again. Ultimately it is us who are victimized,” Sampath said.

Cabinet Spokesperson Minister Ramesh Pathirana said “For the time being, till people get used to this new agitation site protesting outside (the agitation site) will not be considered as an immediate offence.”

He added that steps were taken to ensure that the public does not ‘get into difficulties’. He said the place was created for the public of the country.

He stressed that no action will be taken against people protesting outside the agitation site for the time being.