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Sri Lanka Hate Speech law: Weliamuna Vs. Civil Society

In a rather disturbing development well-known human rights lawyer J.C. Weliamuna has come forward to defend the government’s proposed hate speech law in the face of growing opposition to the draft law as a suppressive act.

Issuing a joint statement group of concerned civil activists and organisations called on the government to withdraw the bill, as soon the law came be known. The law was tabled in the parliament by the media minister on 11th December.

The statement signed by known human rights defenders like Brito Fernando, Chandra Jayaratne, Chandraguptha Thenuwara, Jehan Perera, Gamini Viyangoda, Manouri Muttetuwegama, Nimalka Fernando,Fr. Jeyabalan Croos, Ratnajeevan H. Hoole, Shreen Abdul Saroor,Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, Ruki Fernando etc., stated that “ the new offence under the Penal Code is particularly problematic as it is a near verbatim reproduction of the language in Section 2(1) (h) of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). The offence as provided in the Bill is overbroad and general, and is not a permissible restriction in relation to freedom of expression guaranteed by the Constitution and by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Furthermore, the proposed amendment, if enacted, could lead to a culture of self-censorship and perpetuate a chilling effect on free speech”.

Tamil National Alliance too issued a statement urging the government to withdraw the proposed law.

Now speaking to a London based web site Mr. Weliamuna has justified the proposed law saying that “ a clause like this even included in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR) and LLRC has recommended enacting such a law.” But he has not provided the relevant clause of the UDHR. LLRC has made only a general recommendation not a specific model law. Mr. Weliamuna has further said that those who have oppose the law must be ignorant.

Based on Mr. Weliamuna’s comment the website has branded those 100 odd civil activists who signed the statement as lunatics!

Although Mr. Weliamuna has defended the proposed law government today announced that it will not take up the draft law for discussion on 8th January 2016.

– Comment by SLB



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