19 June, 2024

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Take Immediate Steps To Repeal Online Safety Act: CPA

The Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) is concerned with the process followed in enacting the Online Safety Act (OSA). It raises serious questions in terms of law-making and its impact on constitutional democracy in Sri Lanka. CPA has previously raised these issues but notes with disappointment the continued practice. The process of drafting the OSA was shrouded in secrecy. The rushed manner of its passage raises questions as to the intentions of the Government in enacting a law that has significant implications for fundamental rights and the rule of law in Sri Lanka. CPA has previously commented on the substance and process followed with the Bill and challenged its constitutionality. In light of recent events surrounding the enactment of the OSA, CPA condemns the enactment of such a draconian law that can further limit freedom of speech and the right to dissent.

It is with concern that CPA notes the issues surrounding committee stage amendments of 24th of January 2024. With the Supreme Court ruling requiring 31 amendments for the passage of the Bill with a simple majority in Parliament, questions were raised concerning the compliance with Article 78(3) of the Constitution which states that “Any amendment proposed to a Bill in Parliament shall not deviate from the merits and principles of such Bill”.

CPA at the outset noted that the committee stage amendments proposed were substantial alternations, requiring the Bill to be withdrawn and re-gazetted. Despite this, the Government proceeded with the Bill, while failing to adopt mandatory changes required by the Supreme Court to pass the law with a simple majority.

For example, the Supreme Court required that the State ensures that all persons involved in investigations maintain confidentiality of information obtained from the subject of investigations. However, the current Act contains no such protection (see page 60 of the determination). It was also determined by the Court that the inclusion of terminology such as “malicious” and “wantonly” was vague (see page 48 of the determination), yet, the OSA continues to use such wording in Section 14. Moreover, it was determined that certain services, such as emails that are the only user-generated content enabled by the service or SMS/MMS services, must be exempted from the OSA (see pages 59 to 60 of the determination). However, these changes were not made and the provisions on which the Supreme Court raised concerns continue under Section 27 of the OSA, thus raising concerns that the Supreme Court’s decision was selectively ignored.

The Government’s rush to enact the OSA and its disregard for the Supreme Court determination has resulted in a constitutional crisis, raising questions about the legality of the OSA. Moreover, by intentionally undermining the determination of the Supreme Court, the Government is setting a dangerous precedent that has implications for the rule of law and separation of powers in Sri Lanka.

These concerns are also in the context of multiple other issues with the OSA that have been previously raised by CPA such as the broad powers of the Online Safety Commission, vague terminology and the role of experts, among others.

In light of these and other concerns, CPA urges the Government to review the process and substance of the OSA, take immediate steps to repeal the OSA and introduce a law that genuinely addresses the concerns of online safety. Further, CPA calls on the Government to have a transparent and inclusive law-making process that provides time for stakeholder consultations and review. The processes followed with the enactment of the Personal Data Protection Act No. 09 of 2022 and Right to Information Act No. 12 of 2016 are some examples where sufficient time was taken to ensure the law-making process was transparent and that it factored in diverse viewpoints. Such practices of good governance are fundamental for Sri Lanka at its present stage of recovery and reform.

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Latest comments

  • 9
    0

    “Take Immediate Steps To Repeal Online Safety Act: CPA”

    Then the zillion to 1 chance ………… Ranil has to win the presidential election is lost!

  • 15
    2

    Where shall the power couple ( All knowing+ Philosophy Professor) go next ? Davos,Kampala ,Canberra ,London, Tokyo ?
    This insensitive exploitation of a fallen nation by a man who the nation never wanted to represent them, goes on- every week another first class ticket and 7 star hotel for the unelected Head of State !

    He will say that he hates foreign travel and keeping company of whites ( Remember that question to the German journalist-Do you think we are second class ! !!_) He travels only because his deep knowledge of economics tells him these are vital jaunts for the country.

    He said he was carrying the baby ( the nation) over a burning bridge. Today how many in that nation will vote for him ? Not even 500,000.

    A fraudulent journey from a lawyer to Mr Know all ( when intelligent men like JR,Lalith.,Gamini were alive RW was considered a mediocrity)

  • 1
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    Online safety act for political reasons does not appeal to hard pressed citizens

  • 2
    0

    Take Immediate Steps To Repeal Online Safety Act: CPA

    Such practices of good governance are fundamental for Sri Lanka at its present stage of recovery and reform. IN THIS STAGE journalism is a great way to do public service, to have an impact free press can be good or bad, but, most certainly, without freedom a press will never be anything but bad on your community.

  • 3
    0

    The hide of an alligator is impregnable, waste of time.

  • 4
    0

    The worst has taken place yesterday. The implementation of this draconian legislation has been placed in the hands of another “Phantom” – the Minister of Public Security – Thiran alles.

    From now onwards, we will see that “Phantom of the Opera’ being staged in Sri Lanka.

    • 0
      2

      Douglas,
      .
      Please listen to this and let me know what you make of

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xbhzBGweigc

      I thought Mr Sumanthiran was popular in the nothern province

      • 0
        3

        These videos are food for thought. I am not biased to one party, but what he is saying is connected and multifaceted. Sumanthiran is popular in Colombo but not in north SL. The same goes for Ranil. However, RW handles world politics in a very subtle way.
        .
        People need to open their eyes. It is true that there is not a single video of AKD-TRIP to india in circulation where we can get more details.. Indians are thoughtful and visionary in their political nature. They did the Maldives too. They are also involved in politics.

  • 1
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    Part I
    Concerns of the CPA, in my view, has a more fundamental issue, simply stated in the third paragraph of the article. A Bill which is gazetted allows the citizens to petition Court to examine the way in which it can be enacted, namely, by simple majority, or by special majority alone or special majority with a referendum as specified in the Constitution. The Constitution also states that a bill once passed and certified by the Speaker cannot be challenged. However, the Constitution is silent when a bill once proposed in the guise of being compliant but substantially altered at committee stage, thus denying the right of the sovereign citizen to call upon the court to examine the modified bill, for a remedy to uphold the rule of law. It is not the intention of the constitution for the legislature to be a part and parcel of deceit and denial of people’s sovereign rights. The real issue is that while matters are examined in courts, the bill so tabled remains a pending business in Parliament Thus it is possible to abuse the constitutional constraint of the inability to challenge the law once enacted.

  • 1
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    Part II
    The purpose of the constraint of the inability to challenge a law once passed is to ensure its finality and not give a sense of uncertainty to its implementors. But every provision in the draft law must be examined by the courts to determine the way it can be enacted if so petitioned. The correct process should have been that no bill should be entertained in the order paper unless it has been gazetted and if petitioned the annexure of the copy of the judgement on the way can be enacted. All laws which are supposed to be enacted must be compliant with the judgement and if not, that law so passed should be declared null and void. Further, the law that can be enacted are the provisions so originally gazetted and not amendments introduced at committee stage. If people are sovereign, no law should be passed behind their back and one surreptitious way is to introduce an innocent bill and introduce draconian provisions at the committee stage. I wonder whether the old JRJ ever foresaw and encouraged a future tiranical (misspelled for sarcasm) Sidhdhalepa torturing police state by having this loop-hole in his constitution.

  • 3
    0

    What the Minister of Justice, Minister of Public Security, Speaker of Parliament, and Attorney General are good at is digging very deep holes. But the only outcome will be that persons the government sees as critics and enemies will be pushed into them.
    Perhaps if these hole-diggers are sent to some oil-bearing region we may get some useful petroleum!

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