Proposed Counter Terrorism Law will give the President powers to intimidate and harass citizens
By Imesh Ranasinghe
Several organisations of Media workers are raising a Red Flag over some provisions in the proposed Counter Terrorism Act (CTA) which they said would affect the freedom of speech in the country.
The Free media movement, (FMM) The Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association (SWJA) together with the Federation of Media Employees Trade unions (FMETU) held a press conference on Monday at the Sri Lanka Press Institute go protest these provisions in the proposed law.
he CTA is a new law being proposed by the Government to replace the outdated Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) which the Yahapalanaya administration has vowed to repeal and replace.
SWJA President Duminda Sampath recalled that during the previous regime “there was time where journalist and others were killed and abducted by the white van culture” he said. However he said that although the present government had promised greater democratic freedom the CTA seeks to give the rulers the power “where trade unions, organizations and civilians will be unable to demand for their rights.”
Sampath pointed out that the president of the country will, under this proposed law, can declare a state of emergency in any situation and have the power to call in the armed forces to maintain national peace.
General Secretary of FMETU Dharmasiri Lankapalli pointed out that the present government was compelled by the international community to propose this law because of Human Rights violations committed under the PTA.
He cited the infamous incident arrest and imprisonment of Journalist T.S. Tissainayagam for 20 years because he criticized the government in an article. The writer was released by former president Mahinda Rajapaksa due to international pressure, he said.
Human Rights activist Ruki Fernando pointed out that a person take into custody under this proposed law can be kept in custody for 14 days without charges by the police and the Magistrate court has no power to intervene and decide whether the suspect should be granted bail.
He also said that according section 10 of CTA publishing information to the general public can be deemed an act of terrorism and according section 14 media not revealing their source of information can be accounted for terrorism.
Viranjana Herath of FMM said that the minister can ban any organization as a terrorist organization for criticizing the minister or the government.
He added that according to section 17 any police officer, an officer or a member of armed forces or a coast guard officer has the power to make an arrest without a warrant, if the arresting officer has reasonable grounds to believe that the person has committed an offence under the CTA.
Convener of FMM C. Dodawatta and Suren Perera Attorney at law were present at the occasion.