23 May, 2024


TNA Calls Govt. To Withdraw Penal Code Amendment Bill Regarding Hate Speech

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) has today urged the Government to withdraw the Penal Code (Amendment) Bill.

Issuing a statement the TNA said; “we strongly oppose the Penal Code (Amendment) Bill on the grounds that it is inconsistent with Article 14(1)(a) of the Constitution, which guarantees to every citizen the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression including publication.”

TNA leader Sampanthan

TNA leader Sampanthan

We publish below the statement in full;

The Tamil National Alliance is deeply concerned about the proposed Penal Code (Amendment) Bill placed on the Order Paper of Parliament on 11 December 2015. The said Bill was placed on the Order Paper by the Minister of Justice.

The Bill seeks to introduce a new provision (Section 291C) to the Penal Code, No. 11 of 1887. A further Bill seeking to amend the Criminal Procedure Code Act, No. 15 of 1979 was also placed on the Order Paper.

We observe that the proposed Section 291C is nearly identical to Section 2(1)(h) of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act, No. 48 of 1979 (PTA). The previous government used this very provision to target persons from the Tamil and Muslim communities and to deprive them of their freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under Article 14(1)(a) of the Constitution. We recall that Tamil journalist J.S. Tissainayagam was convicted by the High Court of Colombo and sentenced to 20 years rigorous imprisonment under Section 2(1)(h) of the PTA. We also recall that Muslim politician Azath Salley was arrested and detained under Section 2(1)(h) of the PTA. Both these persons were critical of the previous government’s policies, particularly with respect to the treatment of minority communities. These incidents and others like them prompted international condemnation of the previous government’s use of the PTA to suppress media freedom and dissent.

We therefore wish to state that we strongly oppose the Penal Code (Amendment) Bill on the grounds that it is inconsistent with Article 14(1)(a) of the Constitution, which guarantees to every citizen the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression including publication.

The present government recently co-sponsored Resolution 30/1 adopted at the 30th session of United Nations Human Rights Council. Operative Paragraph 12 of the Resolution refers to the present government’s commitment: ‘to review and repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Act, and to replace it with anti-terrorism legislation in accordance with contemporary international best practices’. Section 291C of the Penal Code (Amendment) Bill directly contravenes this commitment.

We note that Sri Lanka is already compliant with international standards with respect to hate speech. Section 3(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Act, No. 56 of 2007 provides: ‘No person shall propagate war or advocate national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.’ Section 3(1) of the ICCPR Act reproduces Article 20 of the ICCPR, and is therefore compliant with international standards. The High Court is vested with jurisdiction to try offenders under this Act. We also recall that the Sri Lankan Supreme Court, in its Advisory Opinion in S.C. Reference No. 1 of 2008, referred to Section 3 of the ICCPR Act in the context of ‘legislative compliance’ with Article 20 of ICCPR. Therefore, there is absolutely no need to introduce new legislation on hate speech.

We accordingly call on the Government of Sri Lanka to withdraw the Penal Code (Amendment) Bill forthwith.

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Latest comments

  • 4

    The freedom to defend the rights of a community under the pretext of preventing hate speech should never ever be permitted. If any reference to the safety of a specific ethnic or religious group is to be obstructed it should apply to the majority community as well.
    We should never ever have anything similar to the piece of legislation that vilified J. S . Tissainayagam or Azath Sally.
    Sengodan. M

  • 8

    Stringent laws against hate speech , ‘ hate write’ and hate deed are an urgent and overdue need. However, what constitutes hate speech , hate write and hate deed should be very clearly and specifically defined and should apply to everyone , every group and every political formation in the country.

    The TNA is trying to throw the baby with the dirty bath water. Let the TNA do battle and mobilize support to get an acceptable, equitable and just bill passed. Let it again not miss a golden opportunity to get what is right done for this country and every citrizen.

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

  • 3

    I can understand BBS fighting against this bill. But why TNA?

    • 4

      hb – TNA is objecting because such laws will boomerang against the minorities as explained by the opposition leader Mr. Sambanthan. who
      himself is a leading lawyer.The judgement given to J.S. Tissanayagam and Azath sally are two classic examples, where minority voices were silenced. The hate speeches by the majority community will be classed
      as patriotic and minority voices will be treated as unpatriotic and
      will be subjected to heavy punishment. Let the present parliament do
      something better than the previous regime. Imagine a man getting 20
      years rigorous imprisonment for raising a minority issue.

      • 2

        Lanka Watch,

        All the Leading Tamil politicians for almost seven decades plus, have been leading lawyers. We now have in their ranks, a retired Supreme Court judge as well.

        See wher we are and have been! They have no long term vision or strategy. The are only good at debating, toying with words, nit picking and misleading us. Truth and wider exposure are not their forte.

        I consider them the curse of the Tamil community.


        • 1

          Dr. RN,

          You are absolutely correct and totally agree with
          your sentiment. In the 60s or 70s, TULF had several QCs in the parliament with SJV,QC as the head but they could not work out an amicable settlement for the Tamils with successive govts.in power and could not subdue them with their legal brains nor got any agreements passed. SJV introduced anti “Sri” campaign when SWRD was about to get the Regional council bill passed in the 60s and if this bill was passed, Sri Lanka would have become another ” Singapore’ by now but SWRD abrogated it, conveniently due “Anti Sri Campaign”
          What I was saying in my comments earlier is that Mr. Sambanthan
          was right in his statement that, in order the poor journalists, who take the risk of their lives in exposing the wrong doings of the govt. against the Tamils should not be punished using the
          “penal code (amendment) bill”. Jailing of journalist J.S. Tissainayagam is an example of wrong interpretation of the law. Imagine this guy getting 20 years rigorous imprisonment for a non criminal offence of defending fellow citizens on paper.

  • 2

    This proposal is clearly an attempt to muzzle the freedom of expression.
    As pointed out above by TNA, ICCPR has the adequate safeguards.
    The commitment with regards the PTA is much more important and should be carried out.

  • 0

    Who will go to jail first ?

    Tamil politicians ?

  • 0

    If BBS were the only party all theChristians and All the Tamils would cheer up this legislation.

    Now, this law will affect the Tamil Tribaliam, Tamils are very vocal.

    This will close a loop hole for Reverse discrimination in Sri lanka.

    JHH was wrong, BBS was barberic.

    TNA was talking for Tamils.

    It is Like release all the suicide bombers. Jail all those saved every one from Suicide bombers.

    What nice logics.

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