Repealing PTA is Courting with Unmitigable Disaster
Posted on September 23rd, 2022

Dilrook Kannangara

The Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) was introduced in 1979 for very good reasons. Acts of terrorism was on the rise including the bombing of the Air Ceylon passenger plane by Tamil terrorists in 1978, attacks on banks and killing of politicians and police officers in the north. As visible around the world, terrorism has worsened since then, not reduced. Under these circumstances, repealing PTA is inviting far worse trouble than Sri Lanka has seen so far. Time to time politicians love to overuse the PTA which has to be curtailed by legal and political means. Throwing the baby with the bath water is not the solution.

Sadly, Sri Lanka has seen more than its fair share of organized violence using terror to demand political concessions. There were only eleven (11) peaceful years without acts of terrorism in the last 52 years. All the other 41 years out of 52 years had at least one terrorist act (Sansoni Commission Report and Defence Ministry statistics). In percentage terms that is close to 80% of the time. Only 20% of the time since 1970 were peaceful without acts of terrorism. This calls for the retention of PTA.

All countries have the same law as PTA or similar because terrorism is a global threat to civility. It is part of the legal system which means it stays well within the law, allows legal rights to anyone affected and places legal obligations on those who use it. All these are robust safeguards.

It is naïve to think a government would be less violent if PTA is repealed. On the contrary, a government and people will resort to unlawful means to wrest control of situations if legal mechanisms do not allow controlling a violent situation. Sri Lanka has seen these events in 1953, 1971 and 1989 to 1994. These mechanisms do not offer any protection to those affected and do not oblige authorities any responsibility for their actions. As they are para-legal means, there is no legal protection to the society from both terrorists and from authorities. This is the possibility the PTA prevented. In its absence unlawful and para-legal means will take centre stage while the citizenry will have to suffer terrorist attacks. Those who demand the removal of PTA must take responsibility when such mindless counter-violence happens. Remedy for misusing PTA is to bring all politicians under legal responsibility as everyone else, not to repeal the law that is there to protect people and their property.

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