By Ranil Wickremesinghe –
With a view to suppressing terrorist act of the LTTE, Parliament passed the Proscribing of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and Other Similar Organisations Act in 1978. However, since it was observed that this Act contained a number of shortcomings, the Prevention of Terrorism Act was passed in 1979 to replace it. Here, we took Prevention of Terrorism Act passed by the United Kingdom Parliament on terrorism in Northern Ireland as our basis.
Under this Act, action was taken against terrorists in South and North, and arrests were made. Now, the war in the North is over and the terrorism has been prevented. In such a situation, there arises no need for executing Prevention of Terrorism Act. As such, this Act should have been abrogated. At the inquiries made on this matter, the government stated on several occasions in this House itself that they are not going to execute the Prevention of Terrorism Act.
After the 11 September incident, the whole world is vigilant about international terrorist acts. The British parliament passed another Act in place of the formerly existed Prevention of Terrorism Act in order to prevent such terrorist activities. That Act has banned applying its articles for suppressing political activities.
Nevertheless, now this Act is being used for suppressing opposite political groups in Sri Lanka. Mr. Azath Sally was arrested under this Act. He is a politician who has been party to political activities both in the Opposition and the Government. At the Presidential Election 2010, he distanced himself from the United National Party and Supported Mr. Mahinda Rajapakse. At no occasion during his life time has Mr. Sally been ally to a terrorist organization.
It is said that he has been taken into custody based on a statement allegedly made by him. Politicians may make different statements. We have witnessed instances in which they make statements with as well as without responsibility. Mr. Sally made this statement at a time in which the government is taking no action whatsoever regarding harassments made against Muslims; at a time when Muslim Leaders in the government are keeping quiet.
Against such a backdrop, if there are charges that the frantic statement made by Mr. Sally contains some elements of wrongdoing and irresponsibility, what should first of all have done was to inquire whether he in fact has made such a statement and to take action under ordinary law if it is confirmed after such investigations that he has made an offence. Contrarily, his being arrested under Prevention of Terrorism Act can by no means be condoned.
For this reason, the present conduct of the government raises serious questions. The conclusion we can arrive at through this conduct is that the government is abusing Prevention of Terrorism Act to suppress its political opponents. This situation may be aggravated in future. Government may even resort to misuse this Act to suppress the waves of public protest rising against its misconduct throughout the country. This is a clear indication of the trend towards an autocracy. This is a very perilous state of affairs.
Therefore, I would like to ask Hon. Prime Minister the following:
1. Why was action taken on Mr. Azath Sally under the Prevention of Terrorism Act rather than under average law?
2. Will this Act be used further for suppressing politicians of the opposition and public forces?
3. Since terrorism has been terminated by now, will the Prevention of Terrorism Act be abrogated? If not why?
*Question Asked by Ranil Wickremesinghe, Leader of the Opposition under Standing Order 23(2) on 07.05.2013