13 June, 2024


FUTA Expresses Strong Opposition To Proposed Anti-Terrorism Act

The Federation of University Teachers’ Associations (FUTA) expresses its deep concern about the latest attempt by the Sri Lankan government to introduce a new Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) instead of repealing the controversial Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) introduced in 1979. The government frames ATA as a result of their response to the internal and international pressure against the PTA for over 40 years, justifying the Act as a set of proposals that meet the standards introduced by some other developed countries.

FUTA finds this justification a grossly misleading exaggeration, especially in light of the grave governance issues the country is undergoing, i.e., the relentless undermining of democratic values and the marked deterioration of social welfare. We are especially concerned that the ATA is being introduced in the context of the government misusing the police and the military as well as exploiting the coercive power of the law as a means of curbing citizens’ rights to protest and assemble. FUTA is of the view that the danger of the ATA is that it will not impact only one community but to the larger Sri Lankan society, paving the path for a severely abused state structure.

FUTA strongly opposes the new Act based on the following concerns:

1. ATA’s definition of terrorism does not meet UN standards and instead lowers the bar for acts that are to be considered terrorist acts (i.e., property damage, unlawful assembly, robbery, theft, damage to religious or cultural property). Thus, the ATA challenges the rights entrenched by the Sri Lankan constitution.

2. ATA dangerously empowers the president to declare any organization as a proscribed organization if the president has reasonable grounds to believe that said organization has engaged in a terrorist offence. As per section 82(3), a proscription order may include one or more of the following prohibitions: prohibition of any person being a member of a proscribed organization, prohibition of the organization recruiting members; prohibition of any person acting in furtherance of the objectives of the organization; prohibition of meetings, activities, and programmes; prohibition of the use of bank accounts; prohibition of the organization entering into contracts; prohibition of raising of funds and receiving of grants and bequests; prohibition of the transferring of funds and assets of the organization; prohibition of lobbying on behalf of such organization; and prohibition of any person publishing any material in furtherance of the objects of such organization. FUTA holds the view that this law could be used to persecute organizations as well as associated members who hold opposing views to the government, posing a serious threat to the right to express dissent.

3. FUTA is also concerned how ATA grants permission to the president to declare any place of the country as a “prohibited place.” Placing such an unlimited and an unchallenging power to the executive can discourage the citizens’ right to protest.

4. ATA suggests granting the power to issue detention orders to the Deputy Inspector Generals (DIG), a power that has previously been granted to the president under PTA. Apart from that, the proposed law overrides the magistrate’s power, as now the magistrate can only decide whether the person can be discharged on the grounds put forward by the police. The magistrate is not empowered to discharge the person, but only to release them on bail, in situations where the police request the continued detention of a person even if there are no reasons to believe the person has committed an offence under the Act. FUTA is heavily concerned about the check and balance of the Act in its execution.

5. ATA also proposes to legalize military intervention in civil matters in a very problematic way. Traditionally the military could intervene in civil matters only at times where an emergency situation is declared by the President. But the ATA grants power to any member of the armed forces to search any person, vehicle, vessel or train or any premises or land without any prior authorization, warrant or oversight. This becomes further problematic looking at how the military has behaved in the past few months, e.g., the brutality that broke out at the Gota Go Gama, challenging the role of the military in a democracy.

Due to all these grave concerns, FUTA expresses strong opposition to the ATA. We consider this Act as a serious move towards de-democratization, making the people subservient to a highly authoritarian and corrupt political system. We urge the government to reverse the proposed ATA which we consider as an anti-democratic and an anti-people piece of legislation.

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Latest comments

  • 5

    This kind of act can only come about if the country has some semblance of normal functioning. But after this great economic depression, it is act of government terrorism to bring in this ATA. Lankans should realize by now that the chances of this kind of government and our country under them ever succeeding, is very slim. And it will be a long time before it is realized- too long a time for the youth of this generation. Hope that our people have the foresight and courage to remove them.

    • 8

      “This kind of act can only come about if the country has some semblance of normal functioning.”
      If the country has some semblance of normal functioning such kinds of acts serve no purpose.
      This kind of act comes about when the rulers lose their heads.

      • 4

        No, even with normal functioning, oppositional parties tend to create ruckus e.g. Mahinda holding public rallies from 2015-2020. They never had these kinds of Acts then, for those dissenters. Now with Socialist groups coming up, the money-holding Elite, as always, are buying out the Armed Forces Juggernaut, to ensure the country money is not equitably distributed to the starving millions.

        JVP-NPP, UNP, 43-Brigade etc. should hold public rallies incorporating the IUSF and striking workers. Large body of people with political opponents leading the way will be impossible to arrest. They should begin Now, the protests and strikes….aka Rallies, with oppositional ministers leading the way. Imperative for the health and future of our suffering country undergoing a Great Depression.

    • 2

      We all know Sinhala_Man’s name and ID number …….. but no one has seen the guy!

      Here he is in the flesh ……… asking for people to vote for his beloved NPP.
      …… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=etbKibRpV1E

  • 9

    Sinhalese did not protest when the deadly PTA was let loose on Tamils indiscriminately.

    Now it has come to haunt the Sinhalese too as ATA, and now they realize that it is inhuman and undemocratic.

    Remember the Nazis let loose their hounds on the Jews, and later it was used against anybody they didn’t like.

    Karma in action!

    • 5

      Third don’t gloat so foolishly. The ATA will be used against the Tamils too. Ranil will not discriminate.

    • 5

      Just reexamine your logic.
      Your words reflect the attitude exposed by Martin Niemöller in his famous poem “First they came” opening with
      “First they came for the Communists
      And I did not speak out
      Because I was not a Communist”
      It could be “Karma in action!” again for you as well.

  • 8

    This is the reality of countries like Sri Lanka amongst many others, where the governments over the years have been an extension of colonial rule.
    It is this same colonial attitude of the government towards the people that makes the people to revolt.
    Take any country where there is discontentment and strife you will see that the government in power is very unfair to the people and it is using the machinery and systems left behind by colonial rulers to oppress the people even more than the colonial masters did.
    People’s reaction is a natural response to oppression, and the reaction is termed to be terrorism and they are silenced aggressively. This leads to even more oppression. A viscous cycle that has no end…

  • 7

    Let me explain myself better.
    When colonial masters conquered other countries they did so with the power of the gun and against the will of those being conquered.
    Once they got control, they used their military to consolidate their position. The only job of the colonial military was to protect the colonial masters.
    Subsequently a police force and a judiciary are set up to augment the military. Both of these are set up and orientated towards protecting the colonial masters from the people.
    Eventually the indigenous people are drafted and trained the same way to protect the masters.
    When the masters leave, they handover power to a set of people who are loyal to them.
    Those who come to power do not change the orientation of the military, the police or the Judiciary. To them the mindset that they are there to protect the people in power against the citizens is never changed.
    This is happening in Sri Lanka to this day. The government machinery want to continue harassing, oppressing and denying the rights of the citizens as they have always been doing.
    The people get discontented and react.
    There are dire consequences.
    When are our people going to be truly liberated from this injustice?
    When will the military, police and judiciary understand their true role is to protect the citizens against enemies and oppressors.

    • 8

      We did not have much of an Army in 1948, and had far less of a Navy & Air Force.
      The Police force was 9000 strong. A Reserve Police force of 6000 was added after the 1971 insurrection.
      It stayed roughly that way until after the national question was transformed into a war.

      • 3

        Dear SJ
        Yes, as far as numbers go, you are right.
        But my focus is on the attitude of the neo colonial masters who have been in power since 1948.
        I am sure you will agree with me that the neo colonialists have not changed over the years, regardless of the party, person or manifesto.
        They think citizens are there to be trampled on, deceived, manipulated, set apart and divided, taxed to the core, molested, etc.
        It is a shame.

        • 4

          I only placed some data to clarify the context.
          As for your main argument, I have little to contest.

  • 6

    When will we learn that democracy is to produce servants of the people and not neo-colonial masters?
    The solution to this problem is for leaders to understand the true value and rights of the citizens and start treating them with dignity.
    In any country, the citizen is the king. Everything has to be done for their sake and not otherwise.
    It is hard work. Only a diligent set of leaders will realize this and reorientate the system for the benefit of the citizens.
    Our bastards are too lazy and self centred to make this change. Even the citizens are too stupid to understand their rights besides our people don’t give a hoot about the well-being of the next person to them.
    The religion has been hijacked, corrupted and perverted to close people’s minds.
    Ethnic and religious differences have been shored up to confuse the stupid people even more.
    The media guys are busy using psychology and mind games to empower the unpatriotic thieving bastards who are in power.
    Does the ignorant oppressed downtrodden citizen have a chance?
    No, they instead chose to run to developed and civilised countries instead.

  • 9

    The PTA targetted ‘Tamil terrorists’ but ended up killing more Sinhalese than Tamils. (The war was something else.)
    This time there is no mistake what the target is.
    It is dangerous legislation, but the cowardly parliament will let it through.

  • 5

    This is very depressing, I expected better from Ranil. He appears to be setting himself up as a ‘benevolent’ dictator like Gota. Better people than I have explained why this never works. The future looks very grim, at worst a crackdown on his NPP/JVP opponents followed by another violent uprising. How different it would be if he proposed and implemented anti-corruption laws.

  • 2

    In the proposed legislation one could foresee an end result not dissimilar to the one that led to thousands of Sri Lankans from all walks of life losing their lives in the late eighties. Looking back at the horrendous atrocities that occurred in eighty-three, and later on in the same decade, one wonders whether the lust for bloodletting is genetic.

  • 4

    Once again I say that what this country really needs today is not a Draconian Anti-Terrorism Act but a Draconian Anti-Corruption Act. However, that is wishful thinking because corrupt men will never propose nor legislate an Anti-Corruption Act.

    • 5

      How will a “a Draconian Anti-Corruption Act” help with the issue at hand?

  • 3

    A bad law is always bad. It is inhumane to console yourself that the Sinhalese will now experience your fate. How does that relieve you of your pain.

    • 5

      You have not seen enough Tamil movies:
      Revenge is sweeter than divine nectar.

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