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Sunday, July 21, 2024

Freedom of expression and the PTA in Sri Lanka

Robinhood raises concern over the recent arrest of Azad Sally by the CID. This evil act characterizes the Rajapaksa regimes witch-hunt against opposition politicos. Azad Salley was arrested by the CID on the 2nd of May 2013 morning under the prevention of terrorism act (PTA). Government Media spokesperson Lakshman Hulugalle stated that Mr. Sally was taken into custody for making provocative statement and instigating communal hatred among ethnicities.

Since the day he was arrested he has been kept in detention in the CID for 72 hours without being produced to the courts. Later the CID has increased the detention without producing the accused to the courts under the PTA. It was reported that Mr. Sally was on a hunger strike while in detention demanding to produce him to a magistrate. Due to his weak health condition he was admitted at the national hospital. He was taken into custody for issuing a false statement criticizing the government. Later Mr. Sally said the magazine which published the news has false written his statement and he has informed the magazine regarding the error and to correct it and waiting for an extract.

Azad Sally is the one of the person who publicly criticized the government for instigating communal hatred. He condemned the government’s undemocratic ways suppressing the political opponents. He openly criticized the government’s sponsorship of Bodu Bala Sena (Ideological Bhuddist Group) for creating hatred among Bhuddist against Muslims. He criticized the government for not enforcing the law against Bodu Bala Sena for attacking a cloth stores belonging to a Muslim in Pepiliyana.

It is very evident the government is selective when enforcing the law against the rule. The rule of law is dominated by an authoritarian power not equitable for its citizens. The present law of the country is becoming the desire of the government. If the government wishes to take anybody into custody it takes them by using the PTA. If the government wishes to release anybody convicted of crimes it does it overnight by influencing the police, Attorney General and the Judiciary? It does all these by influencing the police not properly raising a charge sheet against the criminal by exercising a casual investigation process into critical crimes leaving criminal free. Recently we witnessed local government ministers are convicted for child rapes and murders are taken into custody by great difficulty and released in bail without proper charge sheet due to political interference. But whoever has an anti opinion against the government is taken into custody overnight by using the PTA. The government has descended its policies into suppression for any anti government political voices by taking them into custody.

The prevention of Terrorism act exceeds all other natural justice which is unethical in an environment where there is no terrorism. The PTA is used as an instrument to oppress anti political views of the opposition members. The government has used the same law to take Azad Sally into custody. From this PTA the CID has the right to keep the accused in detention for an indefinite period until it fulfills its ulterior motives. The PTA cannot be exercised in a situation where there is no terrorism in the country, if any accused has involved in any complicity he should be taken into custody by enforcing the ordinary law of the country. By using the PTA an accused can be kept in detention as long as it can, by preventing him bail. By using this act the government can take any ordinary citizens who have an anti political opinion into custody and torture him and forced confession for crimes inside detention. This is a very serious and despotic situation violating the public and political parties from engaging in civil and political rights harming the rule of law and the democracy in the country. Such arrests, prevents the freedom of expression of anybody raising any alternative political views and criticize the government for its undemocratic conduct.

The PTA was enacted in 1979 at a situation where there was terrorism in the country. Due to violation of human rights the law was amended for a temporary period. Under this act if anybody is accused of complicity for terrorist activities there is no provision to obtain bail. The detention and the release order can be granted only by the Defense Secretary exceeding any court of law. Further in this law there no necessity for the police to produce evidence of the accused involvement of terrorist activities but only to charge of any terrorist involvement which is very unfair. Under this draconian act if anybody has an enmity towards somebody, anybody can use political or any other influence to detain and take into custody,

The inequity of enforcing the law in the Rajapaksa regime.

1. A UPFA local government chairman of the Tangalle pradeshiya sabha was granted bail for killing a foreigner and raping of his fiancée.
2. A UPFA local government member of the Tangalle pradeshiya sabha was granted bail for raping a 14 year old girl.
3. A UPFA local government chairmen of the Akuressa Pradeshiya sabha was granted bail for raping an underage girl
4. A UPFA parliament minister Duminda Silva was accused for the murder of presidential advisor Bharatha Luxhman was granted bail.
5. Former LTTE member K. Pathmanathan alias KP accused of providing arms to the LTTE is kept under state patronage and security without enforcing the PTA

Freedom of expression is a citizen’s fundamental rights in a democratic country. The accountability of governance is confirmed by allowing the people to express their independent views without constraints. By allowing freedom of expression the citizens has the right to prevent any abuse or misuse of power and to minimize corruption. In Sri Lanka the freedom of expression is curtailed in two ways. Earlier media institutions were either sealed or burnt; journalists were terrified, attacked, abducted, missing or killed. In any of the situations no culprits were apprehended and produced before the law. The present trend of suppressing the media is by taming the journalists by providing perks and privileges

– Sri Lanka Guardian


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