Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera yesterday criticised former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and backed the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances Bill, pointing out it would not be implemented with retrospective powers and would secure the rights of all Sri Lankan citizens in the future.
Recapping Sri Lanka becoming a signatory to the UN International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances in 2015 and the eventual development of the bill, the former Foreign Minister insisted that it would protect all Sri Lankans, regardless of their religion or ethnicity, from persecution.
“This legislation is of paramount importance. It is a human right of any person living in a free, fair and civilised society. It provides for the protection against unjust elements seeking to suppress dissenting views and demands. The main aim of this legislation is to provide every citizen protection against disappearances or kidnappings,” the statement said.
He slammed Rajapaksa and his loyalists for what Samaraweera termed as wilful efforts to mislead the public and besmirch the good name of the armed forces.
“Through this bill we can put a full stop forever to the white van culture and repression of people who dissent, which has terrified people for so long. That is something all citizens of this country should be happy about. However, the elements that introduced the ‘white van culture’ to this country are now engaged in a process to mislead the people of this country,” he said, referring to the former President and his administration as “political ghosts”.
“This bill will ensure that no future generations will suffer as those did in the past. By not allowing this bill to pass, are they not leaving the door open for these same injustices to be perpetrated again in the future?” the statement questioned, calling on the public to consider the merits of the bill independently and not be blinded by short-term political agendas.
The Bill was gazetted in February; if enacted, it would give effect to the UN International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances in May 2016.