Stringent laws to eliminate jihadism is Lanka’s top priority: PM Wickremesinghe

Wickramsinghe said the deadly attacks could have been prevented if the new Counter Terrorism Bill, which provides for territorial jurisdiction, was passed in Parliament without delay

Introducing a tough new legislation to eliminate jihadism and extremism from Sri Lanka is the government’s top priority, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has said in the aftermath of country’s worst terror attacks on Easter Sunday.

The deadly attacks could have been prevented if the new Counter Terrorism Bill, which provides for territorial jurisdiction, was passed in Parliament without delay, he said on April 29 after joining the Sunday Mass in Colombo and the mass at the Saint Anthony’s church in Kochchikade, a week after the deadly suicide bombing killed over 250 people.

“No anti-terrorism law in Sri Lanka provides for territorial jurisdiction under which a cadre belonging to an international terrorist organisation could be arrested in Sri Lanka if they are found. Not even the penal code provides that provision,” the Prime Minister was quoted as saying by the Daily Mirror.

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Introducing legislation against extremism is a priority for the government and new laws will be introduced to eliminate jihadism from the country, Wickremesinghe was quoted as saying by the Colombo Page.

“We have included this provision in the new Counter Terrorism Bill. However, it is stuck in Parliament for months. The Easter Sunday attacks could have been prevented if this legislation was passed,” he said.

Nine suicide bombers carried out a series of devastating blasts that tore through three churches and three luxury hotels on the Easter Sunday, killing 253 people.

The Islamic State claimed the attacks, but the government has blamed local Islamist extremist group National Thowheeth Jamaath (NTJ) for the attacks.      Sri Lanka on April 27 banned the NTJ and a splinter group linked to the ISIS.

A total of 106 suspects, including a Tamil medium teacher and a school principal, have been arrested in connection with the Easter Sunday blasts.

Wickremesinghe reiterated that defence authorities should have acted upon the warnings given by intelligence units. “There has been no breakdown in the intelligence services but the issue has been that the defence authorities had not acted upon the warnings,” he added.

Last week, state minister of defence Ruwan Wijewardene accepted that there had been “major” lapses in the security arrangements.

Sri Lankan and international media reported that India and the US provided specific warnings about terror attacks to Sri Lanka, ahead of the Easter Sunday bombings.

 

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