ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka cannot use the controversial Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) against protestors and normal laws must apply to any lawbreakers linked to the protests, the main opposition the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) said.
SJB MP Eran Wickramaratne said at a press conference in Colombo on Wednesday August 24 that the party “completely dencounces” the use of the PTA to detain what he called peaceful protesters.
“When we were in government – [then] President Maithripala Sirsiena’s and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s government – we put forward proposals to parliament to reform the PTA. We wanted to move forward, post-war, taking the country to a new place.
“But what has happened now, unfortunately, is that the PTA is being used to deal with peaceful protestors, to detain them,” said Wickramaratne.
The PTA is a controversial anti-terror law that has been used in Sri Lanka since 1979 and has drawn much criticism from human rights lobbies both local and international. It has been called draconian, and the law is once again under local and international scrutiny after it was used to detain three protestors linked to Sri Lanka’s youth-led Aragalaya (Struggle) protest.
“The police have given reasons for using the act. This is not for the police to determine. It is for the politicians to determine… that the PTA cannot be used, that the normal law of the country must be applied,” said Wickramaratne.
The government of President Ranil Wickremesinghe maintains that the recent spate of arrests have been legal and only those accused of violence or other criminal or anti-state activity are under investigation.
“We don’t condone violence, even for a moment. We completely dencounce those who burnt down the houses of some MPs,” the SJB parliamentarian said, referring to incidents of retaliatory mob violence on May 09 after government-supporters at the time attacked peaceful protestors.
“But the normal law of the country must apply, and justice must prevail. The use of the PA should be completely denounced. The country can’t normalise if we use the PTA,” he said. (Colombo/Aug24/2022)