Counter-Terrorism Bill to be tabled on Oct. 9 | Sunday Observer

Counter-Terrorism Bill to be tabled on Oct. 9

The new Counter-Terrorism Bill which will repeal the existing Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) is set to be tabled in Parliament on October 9. The PTA was enacted in 1979 to deal with terrorism plaguing the country at the time but has been heavily criticised over the years. After a drafting and consultation process that lasted over two years, the Government’s proposed counter-terrorism legislation to replace the draconian PTA was finally endorsed by the Cabinet of Ministers on September 11, 2018, amidst heated exchanges over some of its provisions.

A crosssection of the Government and the Opposition lawmakers who spoke to the Sunday Observer, however, expressed mixed reactions on the contents of the new Counter Terrorism legislation.

While the JVP declined to comment Tamil National Alliance (TNA) Jaffna District Parliamentarian Mavai Senathirajah told the Sunday Observer they have not seen the draft Bill as yet and would only comment on it after going through the proposed draft. However, earlier, the TNA had told the media that it was “deeply perturbed” by the Government’s move to propose a counter-terrorism law as it curtails civil liberties and has the potential for abuse.

Speaking to the Sunday Observer Joint Opposition Parliamentarian Vasudeva Nanayakkara suggested that the proposed Bill is probably one that has been recommended by the West to the government.

According to Nanayakkara, the PTA can be set aside as there is no terrorism in the country now.

Deputy Minister of Science and Technology Karunarathna Paranawithana said certain members of the Cabinet had some reservations but had finally agreed to rectify any shortcomings during the debate in Parliament.

“Due to Sri Lanka’s geographical location, it is vulnerable to global terrorism as well. Some cross-border terrorist elements can use Sri Lanka as a hideout operation point or transit point so that there is a need for a Counter Terrorism Act conforming to global standards” he said adding that the new law should be democratic in a form acceptable to international standards. Meanwhile, Higher Education Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe had also proposed certain amendments to be incorporated into the Bill during the Committee Stage debate.

However, Minister Rajapakshe had taken up the position that the Defence Ministry should have the authority to implement the provisions of this Bill as a piece of legislation dealing with national security rather than the Police being cited as the implementing agency of the Bill. Currently, the PTA provides for the admission of confessions by terrorist suspects. However, this has since been excluded from the new Bill.

According to Government sources certain international laws require Sri Lanka to act in accordance with requirements referred to as ‘obligations’ of a country. Meanwhile, some human rights crusaders have stated that the present proposal also raises a fundamental question as to whether more than nine years after the end of the war, Sri Lanka requires anti-terror legislation especially in a context when a multitude of regular laws provide the authorities with necessary powers.