The government yesterday ruled out the possibility of repealing the Prevention of Terrorism (PTA) despite requests by opposition political parties.
In response to a question by Opposition United National Party (UNP) Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, Prime Minister D.M. Jayaratne told Parliament that though the LTTE was militarily defeated, there were attempts to revamp the organisation in different parts of the world.
The Prime Minister said the provisions of the PTA were required to deal with the discovery of weapon hauls hidden by the LTTE. He said the PTA was needed to take action with regard to LTTE suspects who did not surrender after the war ended in 2009.
“The plan by two LTTE members to kill the supporter of a Tamil political party on March 17 and the arrest of four suspects in South India on December 20 last year can be seen as attempts to revive the organisation. It is ridiculous for the opposition to ask for the repealof the PTA,” the Prime Minister said.
However, Mr. Wickremesinghe asked whether former Colombo Deputy Mayor Azath Salley had been arrested under the PTA over an alleged link with a terrorist movement.
The Premier said Mr. Salley had told an Indian magazine that Sri Lankan Muslims had nothing else to do but up arms to defend themselves against the backdrop of rising violence against them.
He said upon close examination of his statement it can be pointed out that Mr. Salley had committed an offence under Section 120 of the Penal Code. Fomenting tension between communities was a key allegation made against him.
“Before the arrest, Mr. Salley was asked to appear at the CID office but he did not do it. It is the bounden duty of the government to use the provisions of the PTA to deal with cases which pose a threat to national security and inflame racist passions,” the Premier said.
Meanwhile Opposition UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe accused the government of using the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) to suppress the rights of political opponents.
He said Parliament passed the Proscribing of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam and Other Similar Organisations Act in 1978 but since it was observed that this Act contained a number of shortcomings, the Prevention of Terrorism Act was passed in 1979 to replace it.
“Here, we took the Prevention of Terrorism Act passed by the British Parliament on terrorism in Northern Ireland as our basis. Under this Act, action was taken against terrorists in the South and the North, and arrests were made. Now, the war in the North is over and terrorism has been defeated. In such a situation, there arises no need for executing the Prevention of Terrorism Act. As such, this Act should have been abrogated. At the inquiries made on this matter, the government stated on several occasions in this House itself that it is not going to execute the Prevention of Terrorism Act,” he said. “After the September 11 incident, the whole world is vigilant about international terrorist acts. The British parliament passed another Act in place of the former Prevention of Terrorism Act to prevent such terrorist activities. That Act has banned applying its articles for suppressing political activities. Nevertheless, now this Act is being used for suppressing opposition political groups in Sri Lanka. Mr. Azath Sally was arrested under this Act. He is a politician who has been party to political activities both in the Opposition and the Government. At the Presidential Election 2010, he distanced himself from the UNP and supported President Mahinda Rajapaksa. At no occasion during his life time has Mr. Sally been allied to a terrorist organization.
Mr. Wickremesinghe said he appeared to have been arrested on the basis of a statement allegedly made by him. Politicians may make different statements. We have witnessed instances in which they make irresponsible statements. Mr. Sally made this statement at a time in which the government is taking no action whatsoever regarding harassmens made against Muslims; at a time when Muslim Leaders in the government are keeping quiet.
He said against such a backdrop, if there are charges that the frantic statement made by Mr. Sally contains some elements of wrongdoing and irresponsibility, what should first of all have been done was to inquire whether he in fact had made such a statement and to take action under ordinary law if it was confirmed after such investigations that he had committed an offence and Mr. Sally’s arrest under the Prevention of Terrorism Act could by no means be condoned. (Kelum Bandara and Yohan Perera)