The Sri Lanka Police refused to reveal the number of citizens arrested and detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act at the Right to Information Commission.
Police inspector and lawyer Wasantha Kumara Kotiakumbura of the Police Legal Division, who represented the Inspector General of Police at the Right to Information Commission, refused to provide this information saying that it could be a serious threat to national security.
Under the Right to Information Act, it is the duty of the police to prove that the provisions of the Act have been complied with. However, the inspector failed to demonstrate how the release of the requested statistics can jeopardize national security. The inspector said that if the Right to Information Commission issues orders to release this information, then that information can be released based on those orders.
Lawyer Suren D. Perera, the appellant, stated that the disclosure of the number of people arrested and detained under the PTA does not pose any threat to national security, and that even the verdict of Tharindu Jayawardhana v. Commissioner General’s Office of Rehabilitation, a previous case heard at this commission, states that it is wrong for the public authority to take such a position regarding the requested statistics.
He pointed out that the Police Media spokesman had recently stated similar figures in a press conference, that the police are misusing the provisions of the Right to Information Act, and that they could not even demonstrate their compliance with the Act. He added that the Director of the Police Legal Division previously refused this request for information saying that what is requested does not fall under the category of ‘information’ and that after appealing the named officer, the Director took a different stance saying that it would be a threat to national security. Laywer Perera demonstrated that the Sri Lanka Police has taken various positions to avoid releasing this information.
When the commission questioned the police inspector regarding the police’s stance despite the fact that Sri Lanka provides statistics even to the United Nations, he responded that even so, the police is of the position that it is not possible to provide the relevant data to the appellant.
Accordingly, the announcement of the decision of the appeal related to this information request was postponed to October 7th.
The appeal was heard before the Commissioners of the Right to Information Commission, namely retired Supreme Court Judge Upali Abeyratne, Senior lawyer Kishali Pinto-Jayawardene, and Senior lawyer Jagath Liyana Arachchi.
The police are refusing to provide information regarding the persons arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act in a context where the Sri Lankan government continues to receive international criticism regarding arrests made under this Act.