Draconian provisions in Draconian provisions in proposed new counter terrorism law – Mahinda GL warns of police state
Posted on April 2nd, 2019

by Shamindra Ferdinando Courtesy The Island

A pril 2, 2019, 9:32 pm

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Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa, MP, yesterday said that they were ready for talks with political parties represented in parliament, including the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), in a bid to thwart attempts to bring in controversial counter terrorism law targeting legitimate political opposition.

Rajapaksa alleged that the proposed law meant to replace the existing Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) in accordance with current dispensation’s understanding with Western powers, threatened civil liberties.

A top UPFA team comprising former President Rajapaksa and lawmakers, Keheliya Rambukwella and Mahindananda Aluthgamage and Chairman of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) Prof. G.L. Peiris addressed a spate of contentious issues at a media briefing with representatives of English print media at the Opposition Leader’s Office.

MP Rajapaksa declared his readiness to discuss the new law with Opposition political parties in response to The Island query whether the UPFA with over 90 members would explore the possibility of thwarting required simple majority required for the passage of the proposed bill with the support of the TNA and the JVP.

The TNA and the JVP parliamentary groups comprises 16 and 6 lawmakers, respectively.

Kandy District MP Rambukwella pointed out that though some political parties opposed the proposed law, their leaders were either members of the UNF government or worked with the UNP.

Having dealt with the serious dangers posed by the proposed law, Prof. Peiris warned that their failure to defeat the UNP move would swiftly transform the country into a ‘police state.

The former Law Professor said that the Supreme Court had ruled that some sections of the proposed law couldn’t be accepted unless endorsed by a two-thirds majority and a referendum.

Responding to a query raised by The Island, Messrs Rajapaksa and Peiris said that once those provisions subjected to a two-thirds majority and referendum were left out, the new law could be endorsed by a simple majority. The former External Affairs Minister explained how the new law could empower the police at the expense of basic civil liberties at a time the country was heading towards large scale public protests.

Prof. Peiris discussed how the new law could authorize law enforcement authorities to take measures in terms of the PTA acceptable only under an Emergency Rule.

Responding to another query by The Island, MP Rajapaksa said that the controversial proposal had received government approval before the constitutional change of the government in late Oct last year.

The media was told the matter was being discussed at the relevant Parliamentary Oversight Committee chaired by MP Mayantha Dissanayake. The UPFA was represented there by Joint Opposition Leader in Parliament Dinesh Gunawardena.

Rajapaksa and Prof. Peiris said that Sri Lanka could not amend or replace laws to appease a section of the international community. The former Colombo University Law Professor described the move to replace the PTA as one such instance.

The SLPP Chairman explained how the new law could be used to suppress trade unions, civil society groups as well as the media. Prof. Peiris pointed out that definitions of word ‘terrorism’ in Section 3 was meant to stamp down legitimate opposition with those found guilty facing up to 20 years RI.

He explained how in terms of Section 84, ministers received authority to issue directives in respect of prohibitions on entry, taking photographs or making video recordings. In addition to that, Section 82 allowed Ministers to impose restrictions on movement outside one’s home, movements within the country, moving outside the normal route to and from work place, association with persons listed in the order and engaging in ‘specified activities.’

Prof. Peiris also faulted the media for not closely following the proposed law. According to him, the top management of media organizations as well as partners were liable for alleged violations. The proposed law threatened the post-war civil society as it prevailed over all other written laws in the event of inconsistency with any other law, he said.

At the onset of the briefing, Prof. Peiris lambasted the government for inclusion of specific safeguard to protect those taken in on terrorism charges. The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) and the IGP had to be promptly informed of those taken in on terrorism charges to guarantee their safety and security whereas political opponents received far harsher treatment, Prof. Peiris said.

MP Rajapaksa criticized the conduct of the four-party TNA. The TNA never really raised its voice against the inordinate delay in having Provincial Council polls, Rajapaksa said, claiming that his government cleared the way for the TNA to return to democratic politics by eradicating terrorism nearly a decade ago.

2 Responses to “Draconian provisions in Draconian provisions in proposed new counter terrorism law – Mahinda GL warns of police state”

  1. Dilrook Says:

    LTTE never stopped TNA from contesting elections. In 2004, LTTE stuffed ballot boxes in support of the TNA.

    In 2005, LTTE and TNA demanded that Tamil people in the north botcott the presidential election.

    In 2008 TNA didn’t contest the EPC election because it protested the de-merger.

    TNA has demanded PC elections knowing very well it will clean sweep the NPC and all Tamil majority electorates in the East. TNA may even win a few seats from Colombo District if it contest the WPC election.

    Clearing the way for TNA to return to power is not what a leadershould do. Instead, making TNA irrelevent and punishing all those who promote separatism are the required action.

    The country needs an immediate presidential election, not PC elections.

  2. Randeniyage Says:

    Country needs PC elections postponed until 3019.

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