Senior ministers visit UNHRC countries to canvass support while delegation remains alert in Geneva Sunday Times Political Editor
This week began with the continuing focus on issues related to the aftermath of the military defeat of Tiger guerrillas.
All of them appeared to be a scene setter for tomorrow’s 18th sessions of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHCR) in Geneva. Though there is no formal resolution against Sri Lanka and no indications of such a move have emerged, the government is taking no chances. In fact, the information the government has received, through its diplomatic channels, is that there would be no move at the UNHRC sessions this time. However, the instructions to the Sri Lanka delegation are not to relax.
Domestically, the much-awaited regulations under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) were published in a Gazette Extraordinary dated August 29, 2011.
That gave legality to the office of the Commissioner General of Rehabilitation until December 31, 2011. Before this date, legislation is to be introduced in Parliament to ensure permanency of the post. In another Gazette Extraordinary, also dated August 29, Major General Buweneka Bandara Rajaguru, has been appointed as the Commissioner General of Rehabilitation. He had held this post under the state of emergency. The two notifications were also presented in Parliament.
Former hedge fund founder Raj Rajaratnam leaves court after he was convicted on all counts of fraud and conspiracy, in New York. File photo
However, some critical questions arising from the withdrawal of the state of emergency from August 30 remained. They were the proscription of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), its main funding arm the Tamil Refugees Rehabilitation Organisation (TRRO), the detention of more than 6,500 suspects for alleged involvement in terrorist activity and the functioning of the High Security Zones. The government has desisted from promulgating regulations under the PTA to give legal effect to these four important aspects.
The reason — bringing them under the PTA would have placed the government in bad light. Since assuming office, the Rajapaksa administration has desisted from using provisions of this act for offences or other matters relating to terrorist activity and had only resorted to the emergency regulations. With the emergency now withdrawn to send a signal to the international community, particularly in the wake of tomorrow’s sessions, that normalcy is returning to the country, the government does want to seek recourse to the PTA on such issues.
Several western countries have demanded the withdrawal of not only the state of emergency but also the repealing of the PTA. Two of the 11 demands placed by the European Union, which withdrew the attractive GSP plus tariff preferences for a variety of Sri Lankan exports to its member countries, were the repeal of the state of emergency and the repeal of several provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). The controversial UN Panel of Experts that probed alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka noted that the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act of 1979, which was amended, became a permanent regime in 1982.
It noted; “This Act sets out a series of offences with severe penalties, as well as powers to prohibit certain publications. It also sets out wide powers of arrest, search, entry and seizure; provides for a regime of administratively ordered preventive detention up to 18 months, at three month intervals, and provides for restriction orders of movement or actions, in respect of any person the Minister has reason to believe or suspect is connected with or concerned in any unlawful activity. The far-reaching provisions of the PTA have also been widely employed before, during and after the final stages of the war.”