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PTA won’t be repealed -GL tells civil society

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The Ministerial Subcommittee on amending the Prevention of Terrorism Act recently met members of the Sri Lankan Collective for Consensus (SLCC) to discuss the current state of their proposals. SLCC consists of individuals drawn from civil society organisations that have reconciliation, human rights and peace building aims as their objectives.

Chairman of the Subcommittee, Foreign Minister Prof G.L. Peiris said there was no draft legislation as yet to share but only a set of proposals which they wished to discuss with civil society and other groups. He stated that there would be no repeal of PTA as there was a continuing need for it due to security issues. He explained there was a need for balance between personal liberty and freedom and the need for national security.

The noteworthy amendments described in the verbal presentation made by Prof Peiris consisted of the following:

1. Detention orders: The period of validity of a detention order would be reduced from 18 months to 12 months

2. Restricted use of PTA: The IGP has issued clear instructions to police officers not to have recourse to the PTA as a regular mode of arrest or as a short cut. The norm should be to investigate with the use of the normal law. They should only use PTA in exceptional circumstances when adequate evidence is found in investigation and if national security issues arise in the process of investigations

3. Supervision by magistrates: It will be mandatory for magistrates to visit the place of detention and to personally ensure the welfare of detained persons. The Human Rights Commission should/ will be informed of such detention. Magistrates will be empowered to direct the IGP to investigate if any evidence of torture is found. In such a situation the Attorney General will institute criminal proceedings

4. Judicial oversight: The person detained will have access to judicial appeal through Article 126 of the constitution (Fundamental Rights jurisdiction of Supreme Court) and Article 140 (Writ jurisdiction of Appeal Court). This will be spelled out in the law so that there is no ambiguity. This will be the first time in the four decade long history of PTA that detention orders can be legally challenged

5. Access to lawyer: The person detained will have the right to access a lawyer and to visits by family members. This will be a statutory right so that there is no discretion in the matter

6. Repeal of Section 14 of PTA: This prohibits publication of any statement made by the detainee or with regard to the investigation

7. Speedy trial: Trials of PTA cases will take place on a daily basis until completed to avoid delays. The Chief Justice has already directed that PTA cases should be expedited

8. Advisory Board: This has been set up under Section 13 of the PTA. Chaired by retired Chief Justice Asoka de Silva it has already recommended the release of 26, 8 and 6 prisoners on three occasions. The Advisory Board is expected to make recommendations and advise the President on the investigation, release, granting of bail and future action related to the persons imprisoned over terrorist activities and detained under detention orders

Prof Peiris explained that the changes to PTA proposed were a result of consensus between the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Justice and Defence and the Attorney General’s Department; these changes are not conceived as one-off ones, but as a part of a continuum, there being other changes contemplated that will be agreed on later. He also assured that changes in legislation will be rapid, and take place early next year.

No written documents were provided to the SLCC either before or during the meeting. However, SLCC presented a position paper of its own to the ministerial subcommittee which provides the principles underlying and restraining the PTA which they wished to have incorporated into the amended PTA (see attached).

SLCC highlighted the following areas of concern:

1. Arbitrary arrests need to be ended. An example was given from Batticaloa where 10 civilians including a mother of two had been taken under PTA for commemoration of their dead relatives.

2. The period prior to indictment should be considered under the normal law, and hence the judicial officers had power to bail out detainees, as decided in the Pathmanathan case by the Supreme Court and magistrates to be apprised accordingly

3. When detainees are sent to other districts on remand there is lack of communication and cross checking which can be rectified by video links for communication.

4. All actions with regard to detention need to be judicial rather than executive or administrative

“We were mindful that as we were being briefed by the Ministerial subcommittee on November 27, family members and others who sought to commemorate Martyrs Day of fallen LTTE cadres were being forcibly prevented by the security forces and arrests and assaults took place. SLCC therefore stresses the importance of national reconciliation taking place in a larger environment that is respectful of human rights. SLCC expressed appreciation of the subcommittee’s initiative to engage with a group of CSOs at this briefing session. We said we looked forward to further discussions once the government legislation had emerged in a draft form. We also requested the subcommittee to engage with other CSOs which had evinced much keenness to do so. Chairman of the subcommittee Prof G.L. Peiris invited interested CSOs to make written submissions without delay to the subcommittee for consideration,” SLCC said.



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Now, CEB plans to ‘rationalise’ tariff

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By Ifham Nizam

Plans are afoot to ‘rationalise’ the electricity tariff shortly, Ceylon Electricity Board Chairman M.M.C. Ferdinando said, adding that the 52-year-old system should be changed for the betterment of the electricity consumer.

CEB Chief told The Island the CEB tariffs need to be changed to better reflect the use and the income level of the consumer. Ferdinando added that he had already briefed President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on it.

Ferdinanado said that right now waste and corruption on CEB’s part had also been added to the consumers’ bill.

He said the CEB had received 1500 MT of fuel yesterday and would receive another shipment soon. However, thort-term power interruptions would continue in several areas until the operations at the Kelanitissa Power Station returns to normal.

“The power interruptions are an annoyance and we are looking for solutions. We too want to provide an uninterrupted power supply to our customers. Our hydro-power generation capacity is low as water levels in reservoirs are receding,” he said.

CEB’s Systems Control Department officials said that power outages might be experienced for one and a half hours due to problems at the Kelanitissa thermal plant complex.

CEB Media Spokesman, Additional General Manager Andrew Navamani said that the national grid had lost 282 MW due to the issues at Kelanitissa thermal plant. He said the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation had informed the CEB that necessary stocks of fuel for Kelanitissa power plant would be provided by yesterday night.

However, it would take several hours to start the generators, he said.

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Ranil calls on MPs to think anew to find solutions to problems engulfing country

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By Saman Indrajith

Traditional politics did not have solutions to problems and the MPs should think anew to find solutions, UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe told Parliament yesterday.

Participating in the adjournment debate on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s policy statement, the UNP leader said: We have come to the end of politics. If we go by the words of Francis Fukuyama, it is a question of the end of politics. But that does not mean the end of parliament. We in parliament must think afresh. We must have the strength of finding a new way. We must discuss on bringing about long-term policies which could provide us with a new framework to find solutions for the problems of the people. Thereafter we can go for elections and ask people to decide who or which party could do better. Japan did so. Great Britain is doing so. India and Canada do the same. Why cannot we do it here? If we have common consensus here, we can plan to go for a new era. We must understand this reality.

“The President has commenced this new session at a time when the country is faced with the biggest economic and political crisis in 34 years. In his statement he mentioned only the foreign reserve crisis. The economic crisis we are facing is far more critical than that. We created a middle class with open economic policies. With the collapse of the open economy, the middle class too will collapse. There are a handful of companies and individuals who could earn profits while the entire economy is collapsing. We must decide whether we’ll perish or unite to work out a plan to survive,” Wickremesinghe said.

“We have come to the end of traditional politics. We may shout at each other and go out to shout slogans. None of them will be able to help us find solutions. The problems at hand cannot be solved without a policy framework and strong middle-term plan. What we are facing today is the end of traditional politics,” he said.

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Chandrika says Sirisena should be thrown out of SLFP

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Former President Maithripala Sirisena should be thrown out of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) for making it a junior partner of Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga said on Wednesday night after appearing before the Special Presidential Commission of Inquiry (SPCoI) appointed to implement the recommendations of the final report of the PCoI into alleged Political Victimisation.

Both Sirisena and former President Mahinda Rajapaksa had destroyed the SLFP, she alleged.

The former President said that she had urged Sirisena not to join the SLPP as that would mark the end of the SLFP.

“I repeatedly told him this and in response Sirisena removed me from the party’s Central Committee and stripped me of my organiser’s post.

Now, Sirisena is saying the same things I said about the SLPP. Even during the war, I managed to get the economy up and running. Look at it now, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry,” she said.

Bandaranaike was also critical of the SPCoI, stating that she had not been summoned before the PCoI on Political Victimisation for her to respond to any allegations against her.

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