By Nuwan Senarathna
The Counter Terrorism Bill presented to Parliament will hinder the rights of workers, trade unions and journalist, Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) Chairman Prof. G.L Peiris said yesterday pointing out that it would reduce their capacity of demonstrating and going on strikes
“This Act will be used to suppress people who speak and stand against the ill treatments of the Government under any circumstance and this will be a death blow for social movements,” Prof. Peiris told reporters at Sri Vajirashramaya in Punchi Borella.
The Bill was presented by the Minister of Foreign Affairs Thilak Marapana on 9 October and the draft bill was published in the Gazette on 17 September. The intention for drafting the Counter Terrorism Act (CTA) was to replace the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), which was enacted in 1978.
According to Peiris, clauses in sections 3(1) (b), (c) and (d) could be used against the trade unions to prevent them from resorting to trade union action.
The section 3(1) (b) says wrongfully or unlawfully compelling the Government of Sri Lanka, or any other government, or an international organisation, to do or to abstain from doing any act. Meanwhile, section 3(1) (c) says preventing any such Government from functioning and the section (d) states causing harm to the territorial integrity or sovereignty of Sri Lanka or any other sovereign country, which all can be guilty of the offense of terrorism.
Prof. Peiris argued the act provides provision to use the Essential Public Services Act (EPS) and interpreted any trade union action, even if it is a peaceful protest, as one that obstructs essential services as an offense of terrorism.
He pointed out that EPS had given the President the power to publish a Gazette declaring any public service as an essential service, which later could be used against protesting unions.
“According to this Act causing serious damage to property, including public or private property, any place of public use, a State or Governmental facility, any public or private transportation system or any infrastructure facility can be named as offense of terrorism, which could be used by the Government for its political motives,” he added.
Prof. Peiris noted the CTA provided provisions that could be used to prevent journalists form performing their duties. He pointed out section 10 (k) could be used to interpret any information published by a journalist as confidential information.
According to section 10 (k) gathering confidential information voluntarily and illegally or unlawfully or in an unauthorised manner, for the purpose of supplying such information to a person who is conspiring, preparing, abetting, or attempting to commit an offense under the Act.
However, section 10 (l) states “nothing published in good faith with due diligence for the benefit of the public or in the national interest in registered print and electronic media, or in any academic publication, shall be deemed to be an offense under this section.”
The international community has repeatedly called on Sri Lanka to repeal the PTA and the European Union (EU) has counselled the Government to bring counterterrorism legislation in line with international standards.