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HRCSL’s call for abolishing PTA wholly unacceptable – Manohara

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Bar Council will respond following consultations

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Top constitutional lawyer Manohara de Silva, PC says the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka has absolutely no right to interfere in national security matters.

The lawyer said so when The Island sough his opinion on the HRCSL’s call for abolition of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). Manohara, who is also a member of the nine -member team engaged in drafting the new Constitution said: “That’s not their business. If there is any clause which is against any UN convention on human rights, including the UN declaration of HR, the HRCSL can point them out. Enacting legislation is a sovereign right of the people of Sri Lanka. Not only that we have a right to enact legislation against terrorism, it is our duty to do so to free the world of terrorism,” he said.

Referring to the HRCSL call to include provisions against terrorism in the Penal Code, the PC emphasized that the outfit had been obviously influenced by those who couldn’t stomach Sri Lanka’s triumph over LTTE terrorism.

Manohara pointed out that the HRCSL issued the recent controversial statements after meetings with Colombo based diplomats over a period of three days. Haven’t they at least examined tough security laws in operation in Asia and other parts of the world? the President’s Counsel asked.

BASL President Saliya Pieris, PC told The Island that they would make their position known once the Bar Council discussed the matter.

The five-member HRCSL recently called for the repeal of the PTA. In a statement issued under the hand of retired Supreme Court Justice Rohini Marasinghe, the Chairperson of the outfit, stated:

“Notwithstanding the amendments already suggested by the government, the HRCSL advocates the complete abolition of the PTA.

The Commission believes that the offence of terrorism should be included in the Penal Code with a new definition for terrorism. It is explicitly for those who threaten or use violence unlawfully to target the civilian population by spreading fear thereof to further a political-ideological or religious cause. The Commission advocates that terrorism should be investigated under the General Law of the country with necessary amendments. The Commission also supports that it is not required to exclude the application of the Evidence Ordinance for the offence of terrorism. The indefinite period of detention violates the Constitution. “Deprivation of liberty of a person pending investigation or trial shall not constitute punishment” (Art 13 (4)

Amendments to the Penal Code, the Code of Criminal Procedure Code. Judicature Act and the Bail Act require modifications for this purpose.”



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BASL urges President to de-escalate tensions in different parts of country

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The Bar Association of Sri Lanka has called upon President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to instruct the Defence Secretary, the Commanders of the Tri Forces and the Inspector General of Police to ensure that there is an immediate de-escalation of tensions in different parts of the country – especially at fuel stations – understanding the difficulties faced by the public.”

 “Whilst keeping in mind that the police and armed forces are acting under very trying circumstances, nevertheless it is necessary to give strict instructions to the police and the forces to desist from violence in dealing with the public and to act with utmost restraint”, the BASL has said in a media statement.

 “We also call upon you to ensure that steps are taken under the law to deal with errant officers who have subjected civilians to such violence.”

The BASL is of the view that it is not appropriate for service personnel to be deployed in the present manner in matters which essentially should be managed by the Sri Lanka Police.

 The armed forces should also not be used to disturb or hinder peaceful protests as was seen last week in Galle.

Full text of the BASL letter to the President:

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) expresses its gravest concerns at the current situation at fuel stations throughout the country and the reports of several incidents of conflicts between civilians and members of the police force and the armed forces at fuel stations. There has been video footage of civilians being assaulted by personnel of the armed forces and the police, the latest being of a civilian being kicked by an Army officer at a fuel station. There have also been situations of the police and Army opening fire into the air to contain the crowd.

Your Excellency is no doubt aware that thousands of desperate civilians are waiting in queues at hundreds of fuel stations in the country. The queues are kilometres long. The tension at the fuel stations have arisen from this desperation for which there is no immediate solution in sight.

The BASL wishes to warn Your Excellency of the imminent dangers this situation could give rise to. The present unrest could result in a conflagration between civilians and members of the armed forces or the police. Some years ago, confrontations between members of the public and the armed forces resulted in the deaths of civilians. Such incidents between the members of the armed forces or the police and the civilians will discredit Sri Lanka’s armed forces and the police.

We call upon Your Excellency to take all necessary steps to give instructions to the Defence Secretary, the Commanders of the Tri Forces and the Inspector General of Police to ensure that there is an immediate de-escalation of the situation in different parts of the country – especially at fuel stations – understanding the difficulties faced by public. Whilst keeping in mind that the police and armed forces are acting under very trying circumstances, nevertheless it is necessary to give strict instructions to the police and the forces to desist from violence in dealing with the public and to act with utmost restraint. We also call upon you to ensure that steps be taken under the law to deal with errant officers who have subjected civilians to such violence.

The Sri Lanka Army and other service personnel must be deployed only in very limited circumstances as contemplated in the Criminal Procedure Code. The BASL is of the view that it is not appropriate for service personnel to be deployed in the present manner in matters which essentially should be managed by the Sri Lanka Police. The Armed Forces should also not be used to disturb or hinder peaceful protests as was seen last week in Galle.

We trust that this will receive the immediate attention of the Government as to do otherwise may otherwise result in unprecedented turmoil and harm.

The BASL believes that the ultimate solution to the situation at fuel stations is to be transparent with the public and to ensure an equitable and effective system of fuel distribution throughout the country.

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SC orders AG to submit report on fuel purchases and distribution

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By A.J.A. Abeynayake

A three-member Supreme Court bench consisting of Justices Vijith Malalgoda, Mahinda Samayawardena and Arjuna Obeysekera yesterday ordered the Attorney General to submit a report on fuel purchases, the distribution thereof and the sectors to be provided with fuel on a priority basis.

The Supreme Court made the order after considering two fundamental rights petitions presented by the Bar Association of Sri Lanka.

The BASL has requested the Supreme Court to direct the Cabinet of Ministers to consult all stakeholders and independent experts to formulate and implement the necessary policies, and to provide concessions in relation to the prices of essential goods and services to the people including LP gas, fuel, electricity, milk powder, medicines and food.

The petitions were filed by the President of the BASL Saliya Pieris PC, Deputy President Anura Meddegoda PC, former Secretary Rajeev Amarasuriya, Treasurer Rajindh Perera and the Assistant Secretary Pasindu Silva.

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A/L may be delayed by one month

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Education Minister Sushil Premajayantha told Parliament yesterday that although it had been scheduled to hold the G.C.E. A/L Examination 2022 in November this year, it could be further delayed by another month.

Responding to a question by MP Shantha Bandara, the Minister said: “The examination should be held at least after three months of releasing the results of the previous A/L exam because the students who need to sit it again should have enough time to prepare,” the Minister said.

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