Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa on Wednesday urged Sri Lankan media institutions to work closely with the Opposition political parties to protect democracy. He made this appeal at a meeting with heads of media institutions. A number of representatives from opposition political parties too were present.Premadasa said that the Opposition political parties had closed ranks to defeat the anti-democratic practices of the government.

“There are many parties in the Opposition. However, there are many things we can agree on. Among them are the new anti-democratic laws that the government is planning to introduce. The proposed Anti-Terrorism Bill will be a death knell to the country’s democracy. If it is passed, the government will be able to send anyone to jail for terrorism because the definition of terrorism is very vague. It also gives dictatorial powers to the President,” he said.

Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) leader Rauff Hakeem said that the proposed Anti-Terrorism Bill would undermine the existing laws of the country and create chaos.

The President of the country could declare a state of emergency to deal with any situation, Hakeem said.

“We can easily use the existing laws, from the Penal Code to the witness ordinance, to deal with most problems we face. On extraordinary occasions, there are constitutional provisions that can be invoked. The proposed bill is not aimed at curbing terrorism as such. Instead, it is a bill to legalise state terrorism,” he said.

The SLMC leader added that the government had postponed elections indefinitely. It has also established a delimitation commission that can be used to delay the elections.Professor G.L. Peiris, representing the independent SLPP MPs, said that it would be impossible to prevent the government from passing the proposed anti-terrorism bill without the assistance of the media.

“The Minister of Justice has postponed the submission of this bill to parliament. This is a victory for democracy. This wouldn’t have been possible without the assistance of journalists who informed the people of the dangers of the bill. When Parliament meets next week, we will talk about what has happened to the X-Press Pearl compensation. We were supposed to get 6.4 billion dollars as compensation. This is more than double the IMF funding. We need to find out why we have not filed a case for over 24 months,” he said.

Head of the Yuthukama Group, Gevindu Cumaratunga said that the people must be educated on the dangers of the new Central Bank Act. The government and those affiliated to it were trying to convince the people that the would make the Central Bank independent, he said.


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