- TNA MP M.A. Sumanthiran calls on political parties and leaders to launch mass struggle against new anti-terror legislation
- Prof. G.L. Peiris says new law is ten times more dangerous than existing PTA
- NPP MP Harini Amarasuriya accuses Govt. of attempting to suppress people’s liberties through it
- SJB says will bring together all political parties to launch joint Opposition campaign against proposed Anti-Terrorism Act and will also take legal action against it
Opposition Parliamentarian M.A. Sumanthiran has called on all parties and citizens to launch a mass struggle against the newly proposed Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA). Addressing a gathering in Jaffna over the weekend, Sumanthiran said while parties can go to court against the new legislation, the Supreme Court will merely determine if any provisions violate the country’s constitution. “Just because we go before the courts, it will not change the anti-people stance of the law. The court will merely state if it violates the constitution or not. It will not decide on the harm the legislation will cause to society and youth. Therefore we must all launch a mass struggle against this draft law,” he said. The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MP called the new law ‘highly dangerous’ and said it will affect the entire citizenry in the country. “The people must band together against this Act. They have gazetted a far dangerous law in the guise of repealing the PTA,” he said. On 17 March, the 97-page ATA was published in the Government Gazette and Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena has confirmed it will be tabled in Parliament in the third week of April.
Expressing similar sentiments as Sumanthiran, MP Prof G.L. Peiris said the proposed Bill is ten times more dangerous than the existing PTA.
“If anyone takes part in a protest march it can be deemed as an act of terrorism according to this law,” he said adding that the IGP will be given powers to issue detention orders under the new Act. “If this law is enacted we will not be able to speak of democracy thereafter,” he said. According to National People’s Power (NPP) MP Dr. Harini Amarasuriya, even criticism of the Government can be considered terrorism making this law extremely dangerous.
“It is undemocratic and anti-human rights,” she said. “We must all come together and intervene against its enactment because the Government is attempting to suppress our democratic liberties through it,” she added.
Opposition parties said they are also prepared to file petitions against the proposed law before the Supreme Court once the Bill is tabled in Parliament this month. Leader of the Freedom People’s Congress Dullas Alahapperuma confirmed his party will go to court against the proposed law. “We will work against it in Parliament as well as in civil society,” he said, adding that it is a law that will affect every citizen in the country and their freedoms.
Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) is also expected to follow suit as confirmed by Chief Opposition Whip Lakshman Kiriella. He said the party will go to court against the Government’s attempt to introduce the new counter-terrorism law to suppress trade unions and civil society groups. Kiriella said the SJB will bring together all Opposition parties together to oppose the Bill. “All parties have agreed. Accordingly, we will launch an opposition campaign against the Bill together as a joint Opposition,” he said.
Meanwhile, a protest against the new counter-terrorism laws was held in Battaramulla during the weekend. The protest was organised by a group of human rights activists who are claiming the new laws violate the rights of the country’s citizens. According to activist Gemunu Perera, the new law is yet another attempt to suppress the people’s right to dissent. “The message is that people must keep silent and remain at home while those in power rob them or face suppression at the hands of the military and the police,” he said. Perera said President Ranil Wickremesinghe has no right to implement such arbitrary laws for a country of 22 million people after entering Parliament with a mere 22718 preferential votes.
Responding to the opposition against the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), Minister of Justice, Prison Affairs and Constitutional Reforms Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, PC said many countries in the world including India, Germany, France, the United States and the United Kingdom have anti-terror laws, not because of the presence of terrorism but because such acts cannot be predicted and can take place at any time.
“Terrorism is a method to destroy a country’s national security and the lives of the people. A Government must be prepared to counter it or it cannot be called a Government,” he said. The Minister also noted that if anyone is against the new law there are only two options left. “Either we hold onto the existing law, or must repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Act,” he added.
Wijeyadasa said the Government is also prepared to consider other proposals and invited anyone who opposes it to go to court within the next two weeks. “If anyone wants to challenge it we are prepared to provide the necessary legal support as well,” he said.