CaFFE Executive Director Rajith Keerthi Tennakoon
The Campaign for Free and fair Election (CaFFE) believes that Sri Lanka cannot become a nation with rule of law until the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) is abolished as it has the same suppressive powers of the Emergency Laws which were lifted in 2011.
CaFFE Executive Director Rajith Keerthi Tennakoon said that the PTA effectively makes all the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) invalid.
“What is more concerting is the fact that PTA has now become a part of Sri Lankan laws. While emergency laws had to be extended monthly, thus being easy to lift, abolishing the PTA needs more concerted efforts. In addition emergency laws can be convoked under the PTA, for example the PTA allows the ban of certain organizations and allows extended detention of persons,” he said in a statement today.
CaFFE says it witnessed with dismay of the detention of Jeyakumari Balendran and Ruki Fernando last year, the extended detention of journalist J. S. Tissainayagam in 2008 and arrest of politician Azath Salley in 2013 under the PTA.
“It is because of the profound understanding of the fear and suppression it can unleash according to the whims of the Government, that we have been consistent with our demands for abolishing the PTA. If it is not possible to repeal the PTA immediately, at least steps should be taken to remove the most harmful aspects of the PTA, including Part II, III and V.”
After the 8 January presidential election was over, a number of Civil Society Organisations (CSO) from the north, especially those who deal with missing persons, called for the repeal of PTA. However CSOs from the south stated that it would be harmful for the electoral prospects of the Government if they repeal the PTA right before a general election. Indeed, such a step would have been exploited by extremist elements in Parliament. However after a significant electoral victory the time has now come for the Government to repeal the PTA and it is the responsibility of the CSOs to lobby the Government, the statement said.
The PTA was first enacted in 1979 as a temporary provision and it was amended by acts no 10 of 1982 and act no 22 of 1988. However this act was not able to prevent the July riots, put a quick end to the LTTE or prevent the JVP from taking up arms in 1987. Indeed it is not the PTA which led to the end of the LTTE but was a systematic political and military strategy, thus CaFFE calls for an immediate repeal of the PTA or at least amend the most harmful aspects of the PTA.
Tennakoon said that the Government expects the support of the Tamil and Muslim parties, thus they have a lot of incentives to a repeal of the PTA. In addition the Government comprises of a number of parties that were the victims, either party leaders or members, of the PTA, for example members of the Up Country Peoples Front, Mano Ganesan, northern and eastern Muslim parties. Moreover those who accept good governance as a principal must agree to a repeal of the PTA. 16 MPs of the TNA will vote against the PTA and JVP will also assist a move to repeal the act. So given such favourable circumstances, CaFFE believes that removal of the PTA should be in the agenda of the Parliament in the coming two months.
“One of the key elements of transitional justice, in the Geneva response, is an investigation of alleged incidents of rights violations carried by those using PTA. In addition a considerable space of a Truth Commission must be given to the use of PTA for torture, illegal detention, disappearances/missing persons.
Meanwhile without the removal of the PTA we can’t prevent a repeat of the tragedy because PTA leads to attacks on personal freedoms, including freedom of expression and association, which in turn leads to rebellion,” he said.
Tennakoon noted that what is transpiring now is an attempt to ignore the PTA while talking of establishing a domestic mechanism. In addition he said that some so called human rights champions are planning to drop the abolition of PTA from the agenda. (Colombo Gazette)