By Shamindra Ferdinando
Justice and Buddhasasana Minister Wiejayadasa Rajapakse yesterday acknowledged the suspension of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) pending introduction of a new Counter Terrorism Law.
Minister Rajapaksa said that as there had been concerns over the operation of the PTA, the government was now in the process of reviewing the anti-terrorism law. Minister Rajapakse said that the review was taking place in the wake of the conclusion of the conflict.
The previous government brought the war to a successful conclusion in May 2009.
The President’s Counsel was responding to Bandula Jayasekera on Sirasa ‘Pathikada.’
Asked why those who had been arrested recently in connection with an alleged attempt to assassinate Tamil National Alliance (TNA) lawmaker M.A. Sumanthiran weren’t produced in court under the PTA, Minister Rajapakse explained the government position as regards the prosecution of suspects.
The Justice Minister said they could be prosecuted under the normal law.
Acting on a tip off received in December, the Terrorist Investigation Division in January arrested five former members of the LTTE allegedly involved in the assassination plot, widely believed to be funded by an influential section of the Tamil diaspora.
The suspects have been remanded till Feb 13 pending TID investigations.
Former External Affairs Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris alleged that the yahapalana government was acting contrary to Sri Lanka’s national interests. The former law professor alleged that the PTA’s abolition was in line with the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration’s understanding with Western powers. Prof. Peiris pointed out that since the change of government in January 2015, the government was busy in dismantling post-war security apparatus put in place by the Rajapaksa administration.
Prof. Peiris recollected the security network built by the wartime Secretary Defence Gotabhaya Rajapaksa to thwart possible threats to national security. Whatever the political differences, there had never been a previous instance of a government intentionally undermining national security, Prof. Peiris said, accusing Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe of being the prime mover of the project. Prof. Peiris said that there had been a high level meeting at Temple Trees in Dec 2016 to discuss the ongoing project to introduce a new Counter Terrorism Act with senior representatives of EU member states. The constitutional affairs expert said that inclusion of foreigners in such sensitive discussion couldn’t be condoned under any circumstances.
Prof. Peiris said that the previous government in Nov 2014 in the run-up to presidential polls proscribed 16 organizations and 424 individuals in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 1373. “The decision was taken after having considered threats emanating from the LTTE rump, both here and overseas. In Nov, 2015, yahapalana rulers lifted the proscription on eight out of 16 organizations while retaining only 155 individuals on the proscribed list.”
Strongly denouncing the alleged bid on MP Sumanthiran, Prof. Peiris pointed out that the TNA had been mollycoddling those who waged war against successive governments. Prof. Peiris said that the TNA couldn’t absolve itself of the responsibility for what was happening in the liberated northern and eastern provinces.
Urging the government not to do away with all existing safeguards, Prof. Peiris said that the attempt on MP Sumanthiran’s life should prompt the government to take additional security measures. The Prof called for wider discussion on security matters as a new threat emerged with an influential section of the diaspora and the LTTE rump getting together for a new destabilization project.