Azath Salley‘s detention under the Prevention of Terrorism Act should be revoked and he should be released immediately. If there are indeed serious allegations of his inciting religious hostility that merit investigation, such investigation, and any consequent action, should take place under the normal law. It should also be part of a wider law-enforcement exercise against all such offenders, irrespective of ethnic, religious or political affiliation.
Even during the existence of the armed conflict the position of the Civil Rights Movement has been that the PTA, if not repealed, should at least be drastically amended. Among the totally unacceptable features we have repeatedly condemned are its “no bail” provisions, and the provision for long term detention at the will of the executive with no legal rules as to place or conditions of detention. It is intolerable that resort to this discredited Act should be made today.
Of extreme concern in the instant case is the context in which this arrest of a prominent member of a minority community has been made. We refer to the alarming hate campaign against this same minority currently conducted by elements claiming to represent the majority Buddhists, which campaign has reportedly at times been accompanied by highly inflammatory actions and speeches which in some instances have resulted in violence. The law enforcement agencies have been conspicuously absent or ineffective. On some occasions they have simply remained bystanders. A vigorous and principled counter-campaign by the government emphasising values of tolerance and inter-religious harmony has been called for by many but remains no more than a fervent hope.
To now use the inhuman provisions of the PTA against Mr Salley is not merely an act of injustice perpetrated on one individual. It sends a most dangerous message to a community already feeling unfairly under attack, and may act as encouragement to the extremist forces mobilised against minority groups, raising a spectre some of us fondly dreamed had been laid to rest.