Don’t harass online bloggers, amend terrorism act: Former Sri Lankan PM

Former Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has asked the government to introduce an amendment to the country's notorious Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) so that the act could not be used for arresting people for making posts on social media

Jul 04, 2021
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Former Sri Lankan PM

Former Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has asked the government to introduce an amendment to the country's notorious Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) so that the act could not be used for arresting people for making posts on social media.

“An amendment should be brought into PTA where a person could be arrested only if he/she is engaged in terrorist activities. Apprehending people for making a post (on)  social media should be avoided,” Ranil was quoted as saying by Daily Mirror during a webinar organized on Saturday. 

“Also, either the Supreme Court could propose amendments to PTA where Parliament could discuss and decide on necessary amendments to the legislation,” he said.

In recent months, Sri Lanka has faced intense criticism for blatant misuse of its notorious anti-terrorism act. Last month, the European parliament warned the continued rights abuses by the Sri Lankan government would no longer be tolerated and might have repercussions over the bilateral and trade ties. 

It also proposed reviewing the country’s GSP status, under which the Sri Lankan exports get preferential access to the European market. 

The European Parliament, in a resolution last month, painted the country’s "alarming path towards the recurrence of grave human rights violations".  The resolution highlighted abuses under the PTA, which has long enabled prolonged arbitrary detention, torture, and sexual abuse. 

It also added that Sri Lankan authorities have been using the act to target members of minority communities and civil society, including activists, lawyers, and writers. The resolution specifically mentions Hejaaz Hizbullah, a prominent lawyer, and Ahnaf Jazeem, a poet, who are both arbitrarily detained under the act.

Sri Lanka’s State Minister Dayasiri Jayasekara had earlier informed parliament the country may lose $ 2 billion annually if the  Generalised Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) concession was withdrawn. 

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka’s foreign ministry apprised the EU that it was studying existing legislation, past practice, and international best practices related to the PTA and would share information about the developments as part of the regular engagement and dialogue with the organization.

(SAM) 

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