- Says hate speech must be recognised as a criminal offence
- 20th amendment not enough, minorities need permanent solution
The Government must recognise hate speech as a crime and include it in the penal code, Minister of City Planning and Water Supply and Leader of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress Rauff Hakeem asserted in Parliament, yesterday.
Taking part in yesterday’s debate on the Government’s policy statement made by President Maithripala Sirisena on Tuesday (8 May), the Minister said that while the right freedom of speech must be respected, hate speech must be identified as a criminal offence.
“The President said that the Government is bound to protect the freedom of speech. It should be so and we have no issue about that, but hate speech is also there. We saw how hate speech fuelled recent communal clashes in Kandy and Ampara. We should not allow hate speech to spread in the country. Therefore, it should be recognised as a criminal offense and added to the Penal Code.”
He said that President Sirisena had failed to even mention the problems faced by minority communities in his policy statement.
“The President spoke of several matters that interested the people in his policy statement. Unfortunately, he had not proposed any solution for the problems of minorities. The minorities need a complete Constitution change. The Parliament appointed a Steering Committee to look into the matter. The Report of the Committee has already been submitted but there is no discussion on that. We cannot even get time for a parliamentary debate to discuss it. It is sad that the President did not mention it in his policy statement and we are disappointed about that.”
Hakeem then rejected the JVP’s attempt to bring in a 20th amendment to the Constitution, remarking that it was only a temporary solution.
“The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) has proposed an amendment to the Constitution, but we do not want any more amendments. We need a complete change of the Constitution. The President mentioned in his speech that 85% of civilians’ lands which were taken over by both the military and the Government have been released. I must say that this is not enough. These lands belong to the people. They are their native and agricultural lands. We cannot support the occupation of their lands by the military and the Government ministries any further. Due to the recent communal clashes, the minorities have lost their faith in law and order of the country. Therefore, they want a permanent solution for the national problem and they will not accept any temporary solutions,” the Minister said.SG