President Maithripala Srisena in his capacity as the Defence Minister has sought cabinet approval to purchase USD 38.9 million (Rs 6,924,200,00 – on today currency rate ) worth of interception equipment from an unnamed Israeli company bypassing transparent procurement procedures while keeping cabinet in the dark.
Srisena’s cabinet paper says: “Due to sensitive nature of this project, the need for secrecy and confidentiality and the urgent requirement, normal procurement procedure cannot be followed. Due to the same reasons it is not appropriate to disclose in this instance details of the type of technology and equipment, and information about the company providing same.”
“They are two issues here: first, why can’t the President disclose the details to the Cabinet? The second is that considering drug trafficking or the number drug users, the number of phone, social media users, one has to wonder if this is for a mass mass surveillance program,” an informed source told Colombo Telegraph.
At the end of the last year, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the UK government’s mass interception program violates the rights to privacy and freedom of expression. The Court held that the program “is incapable of keeping the ‘interference’ to what is ‘necessary in a democratic society'”. This finding is an important victory for human rights and the rule of law.
The Court extended and amplified its concerns about the UK’s mass interception program in addressing its impact on journalists. It noted that in the freedom of expression context, “it is of particular concern that there are no [public] requirements…either circumscribing the intelligence services’ power to search for confidential journalistic or other material (for example, by using a journalist’s email address as a selector), or requiring analysts, in selecting material for examination, to give any particular consideration to whether such material is or may be involved.”
It concluded that “[i]t would appear that analysts could search and examine without restriction both the content and the related communications data of these intercepted communications.
The Court further recognised that such a blanket power to interfere with journalists’ communications, including with their sources, could have a broader “chilling effect…on the freedom of the press.”