I am glad to speak just after the Honorable Minister of State who cried wolf before he concluded his speech. On the last occasion, in the last session of parliament also he cried wolf about another matter: he spoke in parliament and said that there were secret meetings that were being held convened by me, with regard to the state of the economy of the country.
You said I was convening secret meetings. That you said, after I spoke to you about an hour before that and invited you for that meeting itself, which you chose not to attend, but you came into the chamber, and you cried wolf. Now there were members of the government who attended that meeting.
In fact, a respected member of your government, Prof. Tissa Vitharana even signed that statement that came out after the meeting. There were two other members who are chairs of the finance committees of parliament, attended that meeting. A closed-door meeting is not a secret meeting. So just as you did at that time, today also you have cried wolf once again saying that the campaign to repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Act is with ulterior motives.
I can assure you Hon. Minister that when there was an attempt to repeal the PTA in the last Parliament your party members participated in the committees in parliament and it is a recorded fact that they said they support fully the repeal of the PTA. All that they objected to was the Act or the Bill that was supposed to replace the PTA, which was called the counter terrorism bill, had certain other draconian provisions which could have been used against trade unions and other organizations because there was a new provision that was brought in by which organizations can be proscribed. I agreed with them at that point
in time, so we were all in agreement that the Prevention of Terrorism Act ought to be repealed.
The draconian provisions in the Prevention of Terrorism Act has no place in civilized society. So having agreed and worked together on that; having given the assurances to the world; having given assurances to the European Union in particular that it will be repealed, now, when there is consensus almost throughout the whole country, not just from the Tamil people from the North and East, but from all corners of this Island, when people have now realized, how draconian, how oppressive this piece of legislation is.
The parliamentary select committee that inquired into the Easter bombing, in September 2019 came out with the report that asked the question whether this was done in order to evoke in the country a call for a strong leader with the presidential election coming later in the year. Now, that was only a question that was posed by the parliamentary select committee but its being proved more and more to be the actual fact.
Question raised by Hon. Shehan Semasinghe: In 2018 September 17 th , the Act which you are referring to was gazetted. Am I right? The counter terrorism act. At that time the government which was ruling the country also supported, so why didn’t you go ahead with it? if you say that you had consent from our side also, why didn’t you go ahead with that?
Answer: I am thankful to the Hon. Minister for raising that question. This is the question a lot of people are asking me in the public realm as well, and you have given me an opportunity of answering that. We also found various negative features in that Bill. And in parliamentary committee, particularly, the committee on legal reforms, we corrected those provisions.
There were still some more objectionable even for us and the Hon. Foreign minister at that time, Hon. Tilak Marapana, gave an assurance that at committee stage those also would be corrected. But that was, as you rightly said, in 2018 September. In October your party tried a backflip – tried a constitutional coup in the country. There was instability right through
November and December. And after that there was no possibility of going through that Act and then Easter bombing happened. When Easter bombing happened, naturally people called for a strong leader and strong pieces of legislation.
And I come to my next point on that: the parliamentary select committee that inquired into the Easter bombing, in September 2019 came out with the report that asked the question whether this was done in order to evoke in the country a call for a strong leader with the presidential election coming later in the year. Now, that was only a question that was posed by the parliamentary select committee but its being proved more and more to be the actual fact.
If not, I ask you the question: there were intelligence reports that were available, not just three weeks before the attack – even one hour before the attack, the previous evening. There were sources that were available who are still alive, because it came from a different country.
To date not one muscle has been moved to take action against those who perpetrated the act, You did take action to charge persons who neglected, who allowed it to happen. That also must be done. I am not saying it shouldn’t be done. But far more important is to go after the ones who planned premeditated acts and caused so much havoc in the country.
Not one has been produced before court. Now before I sit down, I want to table the letter
dated 11 th February 2022, which party leaders in this house including members of the government subscribe to, saying certain steps must be taken to arrest the economic situation of the country. Now I am not saying that because we say you should do that. Everyone is agreed that this should have been done more than a year ago.
There is no coherence in the government: you listen to the Minister of Finance; you can’t even understand what he is saying. There are several interviews…. we are ashamed,
that’s the coherence with which the finance minister of the country is speaking. The Governor says something totally opposite. You Hon. Minister of State also hold something connected to finance in this country. There must be a coherent policy. We are willing to support. This is a damage that this caused to the whole country. We are all willing to stand together and approach this situation.
So I urge the government: don’t play politics with the economic situation as you have been doing with the Easter bomb attack. This must be faced by the whole country together. And we have demonstrated that we are willing to support the government in addressing this situation.
(Excerpts from the speech made by Hon. M.A.Sumanthiran M.P. in Parliament on 23-02-2022 on the repeal of the PTA and the current economic crisis in the country)