22 April 2023 11:34 am – 10      – 2730

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The highly controversial Antiterrorism Bill is subject to amendments and changes in Parliament and as such no one should have any fear or feeling of threat from the proposed Bill, Justice Minister Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe said.

The government is aware of concerns raised by the global and local community on certain provisions contained in the draft of the Anti-terrorism Bill and the Government is ready to alleviate them by discussion, compromise and flexibility, he added.

Addressing a news conference at the Information Department auditorium, Minister Rajapakshe said the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) passed in 1979 under President J.R. Jayewardene’s rule as a temporary measure to counter the emerging separatist insurgency. The PTA has been misused and exploited by successive Governments since then for their personal and political advantage.

“That is why we expect to replace the PTA which had been branded as a draconian piece of legislation with the ATA.

“If there are any provisions that restrict the rights of the people, their freedom and democracy, the Government is more than happy to address them. Besides, any citizen, political party or organization is free to challenge the Bill in the Supreme Court once I table it in Parliament,” Minister Rajapakshe emphasized.

Responding to Daily Mirror, Minister Rajapakshe said the ATA had been drafted in accordance with international conventions and covenants dealing with fundamental, human and political rights with the main objective of preventing attempts of terrorism in future.

The Government is cognizant of the concerns raised by the local and global community and does the needful to address them, Minister Dr. Rajapakshe assured.

Most of the provisions found in the PTA such as the acceptance of confessions as evidence against a suspect have been removed in the new Bill.

“If a suspect is taken in under the new law and wants to confess, he or she can do it to a Magistrate voluntarily. The provision that has given the power to DIGS to issue Detention Orders (DOS) on a terrorist suspect is subject to change and retains it only with the Minister of Defence.

“The government expects to use the ATA to promote reconciliation and inter-communal harmony in Sri Lanka which was also the wish of the UNHRC, EU and the UNHRC. Minister Rajapakshe stressed.

“I prefer if the power to issue DOS reserved only under the Defense Minister. These laws can be used by any future government and will be counter-productive against any opposition if we introduce draconian laws for short-term exploitation,” Minister Dr. Rajapakshe noted. (Sandun A. Jayasekera)

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