Sajith wants Counter Terrorism Act scrapped

Sajith Premadasa

Deputy Leader of the United National Party, Minister Sajith Premadasa, dropped a bombshell by demanding the Government to push democracy and human rights concerns aside for at least a little while, and give priority to defeating terrorism and ensuring national security in the face of a global terrorist threat.

In the face of this growing threat, he said the Government must scrap the Counter Terrorism Act (CTA), and retain the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), as CTA is not the need of the hour.

Minister Premadasa, who was in Uhana, Ampara, addressing a gathering at the ceremonial opening of the Digawewapura Village on Friday (17), said, “We cannot expect the Police and the Security Forces to fight this new brand of terrorism, with their hands tied behind their backs, while also dealing with matters like democracy, good governance and freedom.”

He also said, there will not be any democracy or human rights to safeguard, if Sri Lanka acts in a manner detrimental to national security.

“If we have to send Security Forces to safeguard schools, if we have to install checkpoints at every street corner, then we are at a point in time when the National Security should be at the top of the national agenda. Eradicating IS terrorism should be at the top of our list of priorities. Once we eradicate terrorism, then we can give priority to democracy, human rights, and freedom. This is my personal opinion.”

Focusing on the need to put the CTA, which was brought in by his Government as an alternative to the more rigid PTA, in the backburner, Premadasa said, in light of the recent situation, following the Easter Sunday attacks, it is not the time to relax regulations that help fight terrorism.

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­“We ended the 30-year war against the LTTE with the help of legislation such as the PTA, which was more than enough to provide the legal assistance that was necessary to end the war. There were many requests during the peaceful period that prevailed after the war, to relax some of the rigid clauses in the PTA. Many were of the view that in an atmosphere where there was no terrorist activity, there was no need for a law that restricts personal liberties and freedoms.

“Therefore, in response, another act titled ‘Counter-Terrorism Act was brought. This new Act, although it still provides certain powers to act against any terrorist activities, also provides consideration for human rights concerns.

“However, after the Easter Sunday attacks, we had to rethink the entire security situation of the country. After the LTTE terrorism, now a new brand of global terrorism has entered our country. Many countries in the world including the U.S., U.K., France, Russia and the EU, have faced this brand of global terrorism. This is a different type of terrorism. In the face of this growing threat, I propose that we scrap the CTA, and retain the PTA, which enabled us eradicate the 30-year reign of terrorism from this country,” Premadasa stressed.

He added that not only must Sri Lanka retain the PTA in its original form, but must also introduce new clauses to further strengthen the Act.

“Not only must we retain it, we must strengthen it. We are not facing LTTE terrorism now. What did the LTTE do? They also had suicide bombers. Nevertheless, they were fighting for a certain section of land area in the country. However, this new global terrorism is not fighting for a portion of land in our country. They want to set up their caliphate in an entire region of the world. They unleash their fight with the suicide bombers. That is their modus operandi. This is a different kind of war. Not like the LTTE. We need to include more restrictive clauses to the existing PTA.”

The UNP Deputy Leader also said, “Many lives were lost in the three churches and several tourist hotels during the concerted Easter Sunday attacks. Who’s talking about their human rights, who will talk about the democracy of the victims of such terrorism? What has happened to their human rights? Therefore, I believe we should completely roll back the CTA.

The CTA is not the need of the hour. The need is to further strengthen the PTA, to face this international terrorism as one undivided nation. We must get to that point. We must ensure the triumph of democracy and human rights after ensuring National security.

“The entire country is waiting to see how we’re going to strengthen National security. I believe both the President and the Prime Minister have the strength to do that. We can ensure National security. Nevertheless, we can’t do that with the CTA. We must go back to the PTA.

We have already apprehended a large number of suspects who had some connection to the 21/4 attack. We have managed to contain this terrorist group. How did the Police and the Security Forces get empowered act swiftly to do that? They could do that because of the clauses in the PTA. What I say is, even this is not strong enough. We must include clauses that would help us restrict and contain terrorist even more. It is my honest view that the President and the Prime Minister too believe the same thing.

“This is not the time to relax regulations. I’m not saying democracy and freedom should not be given any importance. However, there must first be a country to have democracy and freedom.

When there is IS terrorism, there is no democracy and freedom. We can only contain terrorist with a strong anti-terrorist State apparatus. We cannot tie the hands of police and security forces behind their backs and ask them to be on the lookout for terrorists, while also dealing with democracy, good governance, and freedom.

“We must do justice to the people who were killed. We need to do our duty by them. That is why we need to put aside the CTA and strengthen the PTA. I think this is a timely thing. A lot of people are preaching about the CTA in the media. But, in my view, we must stand straight like people with backbones and say what needs to be said.”

(Source: Ceylon Today)