‘Release prisoners held under PTA’- Jaffna District MP | Page 2 | Sunday Observer

‘Release prisoners held under PTA’- Jaffna District MP

TNA Jaffna District MP M.A.Sumanthiran on Thursday called upon the Government to make a political decision to release all the prisoners held under the PTA without resorting to further legal action against them.

Moving an Adjournment Motion in Parliament, MP Sumanthiran said that after the detainees had spent over a decade in prisons, it is futile to further incarcerate them under the PTA.

He told the House that several persons arrested under the PTA over the last several decades were convicted. In most cases, except for the suspects’ confessions to a Police officer being the only or main evidence against them, there was no other evidence. At present, over 100 persons are in prisons under the PTA. However in the proposed Counter Terrorism Act, confessions have been made inadmissible evidence.

He said it was revealed that the suspects were tortured to obtain confessions under the PTA and the validity of these confessions was challenged many times. Many accused had stated in courts with medical evidence, that they were tortured to extract information. The Police officers didn’t investigate properly and merely obtain evidence to present in court. Persons arrested on suspicion or on false information were apprehended and convicted when the actual offenders roamed freely.

He said ‘these people were accused of waging war against the Government. However, the political objective of creating a separate state has come to an end in 2009 and it doesn’t exist now’.

Sumanthiran further said many people and organisations leveled serious criticism against the PTA, some clauses of which are draconian. He cited the example of preventive detention up to 18 months at a time, merely based on suspicion and a detention order signed by the Defence Secretary.

He said according to the provisions of the Act a confession by a suspect certified by an officer above the rank of an Assistant Superintend of Police is admissible as evidence in court. If the confession is challenged, proving that the confession was not voluntary, the benefit of doubt is given to the accused. This provision is totally unfair.

Sumanthiran said the Government intends to replace the PTA with the Counter Terrorism Act. The PTA was enacted in 1979 as temporary legislation for six months. But it was extended from time to time and eventually became permanent. Several provisions of the PTA have been done away with in the new Bill.

He further said the former Rajapaksa Government released 12,000 persons who fought against the Government but we thought the present Government would be more humane yet we don’t see any progress under its dispensation. He requested Justice Minister Thalatha Atukorale to recommend to the President to consider granting a pardon to the detained suspects.

Responding to the Adjournment motion moved by MP Sumanthiran, Justice Minister Thalatha Atukorale said she doesn’t recognise LTTE detainees as political prisoners and added that if there are any political prisoners, they are ready to intervene as a Government.

She said the Justice Ministry has no power to release the detainees held under the PTA. ‘I don’t identify them as political prisoners; neither do I consider them as LTTE terrorists.’