by Asian Commission for Human Rights, Hong Kong, date unknown
There is no longer any reason for the Prevention of Terrorism Act in Sri Lanka; on the contrary, there are many compelling reasons as to why it should immediately be repealed. It was the existence of the LTTE and its ruthless violence that the government used to justify the promulgation and maintenance of the PTA. Now, by the very admission of the government this threat has ceased to exist.
Even at a time of grave danger the PTA was too draconian and many of the provisions in the act could not have been justified. This has been pointed out by local legal opinion, local human rights groups and governments around the world, as well as international human rights agencies and several United Nations agencies and experts.
After the defeat of the LTTE the government said that elements associated with it could remain, and that some new elements may emerge; yet every country faces this possibility all the time. If this reasoning is used to suspend the operation of a normal legal system then this would need to apply everywhere, forever. Terrorism – even war – is always possible, but if people are willing to abandon their freedoms and their normal legal rights to preempt these possibilities, draconian law will reign indefinitely.
As long as the PTA remains in operation there is reason to suspect that it is being used by the government for political advantage, as an instrument to perpetuate its own power. Complaints of oppression by the opposition and other dissenting voices will have legitimate weight.
The Act has effectively aided the destruction of the normal rule of law within Sri Lanka and undermined the independence of its judiciary; indeed litigants, lawyers and even the judges may have started to forget what a strong, functioning legal system is like. To maintain the PTA is to continue destroying what is left. The disadvantages far outweigh the advantage that the the government spokesperson may claim that it has.
An enduring PTA will continue to place the Criminal Investigation Division and the Terrorism Investigation Division beyond the control of the law, with no checks or balances against its abuse of power. Tales of torture being used, charges being fabricated and deaths occurring in places of detention are heard constantly, yet while the PTA exists there is no way to even investigate such allegations, let alone avoid them.
Sri Lanka’s policing system has collapsed; this is now a fact acknowledged by all. Yet no reform process can be set in motion, and under the protection of the PTA Sri Lanka’s police force will continue to degenerate, its people given no option but to live under its oppression, corruption and arbitrary violence.
What this means is that literally hundreds of thousands of people will suffer without any legal recourse, and large numbers will continue to live outside the protection of the law. The entire population will be affected.
It is time for everyone in Sri Lanka and beyond to earnestly request the immediate repeal of the Prevention of Terrorism Act by the Sri Lankan government. The judiciary must no longer be undermined by those with extraordinary power, the rule of law must be revived and all people must be given its protection.