SJB refuses to acknowledge validity of OSA

Monday, 19 February 2024 02:54 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

MP Eran Wickramaratne 

  •  SJB MP Eran Wickramaratne says party does not accept OSA as a legislation that was duly passed in parliament
  • Claims Act has been enacted without adhering to proper parliamentary procedures
  • Urges Govt. to repeal Act and proposes introduction of a new bill to combat online crimes instead
  • Accuses Govt. undermining democracy and veering towards an authoritarian rule

Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) MP Eran Wickramaratne yesterday said his party does not accept the Online Safety Act as a piece of legislation that was duly passed in parliament. 

During a press conference held in Colombo over the weekend, the SJB MP maintained that the Act had been enacted without adhering to the proper parliamentary procedures for passing a bill.

“The Government deliberately sent this bill to the Oversight Committee on Youth Affairs instead of the Sectoral Oversight Committee on Justice Ministry. It is unacceptable that the bill was passed without first obtaining a report from the relevant oversight committee,” he said. 

The MP urged the Government to repeal the Online Safety Act due to its adverse impact on freedom of speech, proposing the introduction of a new bill to combat online crimes instead. 

He further accused the Government of undermining democracy and veering towards an authoritarian direction.

Regarding the police’s “Yukthiya” program aimed at apprehending individuals involved in the drug trade, he emphasised the importance of directing drug users towards rehabilitation methods while punishing those engaged in trafficking. 

However, he underscored the necessity of adhering to judicial procedures and the law, particularly expressing concern over reports of plainclothes police officers conducting drug raids, even in households with only women.

“This Government introduces a variety of bills in Parliament under the pretext of fighting corruption and crime, which appears to be establishing a system beyond the bounds of democracy,” he remarked.

The MP also took the opportunity to highlight the dangers of the Online Safety Act and said it was quickly adopted amid national and international criticism, including the main opposition, knowing that it was flawed. 

“When this draft of 57 articles was challenged before the court, the Supreme Court determined that 31 articles should be amended as they are inconsistent with the Constitution. The fact that the Cabinet of Ministers has decided to amend this Act within a week of its adoption, contrary to the norms to be followed when passing a draft, is something that has never happened in this country,” he remarked.

“This is a dangerous law that restricts the freedom of individuals, media, and civil society. The international covenant confirming civil and political rights has been accepted as a law in this country as well. That law is also violated by this new act. If a report published by anyone is said to be wrong, it becomes a criminal offence under this new act,” he added.

Wickramaratne highlighted that the Online Safety Act poses a hindrance to the expansion of the digital market system, crucial for the technology and businesses of the country, and cannot be overlooked.