Sri Lanka’s new counter terrorism draft bill to be tabled in parliament this month: PM Gunawardena

Dinesh Gunawardena, Sri Lanka PM
Photo: Twitter/Embassy of Japan in Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena on Saturday said a new counter terrorism draft bill to replace the much maligned Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) of 1979 is to be introduced in the parliament later in April.

Sri Lanka is replacing the PTA with a new legislation called the Anti Terrorism Act (ATA) after the former law was roundly condemned for its draconian nature where people were allowed to be detained without being charged for indefinite periods of time.

Sri Lanka faced international calls to repeal the PTA which was enacted in 1979 as a temporary measure to counter the rising Tamil separatist militancy.

“The new bill will be presented in parliament in the third week of April. It will replace the PTA,” Gunawardena said.

On March 17, the 97-page ATA was published in the government gazette.

It aimed to replace the PTA which is often being criticised as a tool used by the successive governments to crush dissent.

The European Union since 2016 has been urging the Sri Lankan government to repeal the PTA and bring in a new counter terrorism legislation in line with international standards.

The EU has linked its GSP+ export tariff concessions to Sri Lanka modifying its counter terrorism Act.

The opposition and rights groups have already objected to the ATA, saying that it does not differ much from the PTA.

They hold that ATA could be used to crush democratic protests and political opposition while the security forces being conferred powers to crackdown with judicial procedure to brand any dissent as terrorism.

Sajith Premadasa, the main opposition leader, told reporters: “We see this as undemocratic and authoritarian because it targets political opponents, trade unions and the public”.

Mano Ganesan, a minority Tamil political leader, questioned the need for a new counter terrorism law when the country is currently free of any acts of terrorism.

Critics charge that the ATA would be more harmful than the PTA.

Sri Lanka, which currently is reeling under its worst economic crisis, has witnessed several activities that have threatened its national security.

The nation saw the end of Tamil insurgency in 2009 after the killing of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam leader Velupillai Prabhakaran. A fresh security threat dented the countrys security after the Easter suicide attacks in 2019 that killed 290 people.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Federal staff and is auto-published from a syndicated feed.)