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US adopts domestic anti-terrorism law similar to PTA, says ex-State Dept. employee

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by Shamindra Ferdinando

One-time US State Department employee Daya Gamage says the January 6 attack on the Capitol has prompted the US to adopt a bipartisan Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act (DTPA) of 2021 to investigate acts of domestic terrorism.

The retired political specialist pointed out how swiftly the US acted after the US Department of Justice indicated the need for domestic anti-terrorism law in the wake of the January 6 Capitol attack. Gamage saw the similarity of  the US response legislation to Sri Lanka’s Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) introduced by the then President J.R. Jayewardene at the onset of his first term.

The US media, in late January 2021, quoted US Rep Fred Upton as having said: “The attack on the U.S. Capitol earlier this month was the latest example of domestic terrorism, but the threat of domestic terrorism remains very real. We cannot turn a blind eye to it. The Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act will equip our law enforcement leaders with the tools needed to help keep our homes, families, and communities across the country safe.”

Media widely alleged that right-wing extremists had been among a mob of supporters of the then President Donald Trump, who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6. They interrupted the formal congressional certification of President Joe Biden’s election victory.

Author of ‘Tamil Tigers’ Debt to America’, Gamage said that the US move to have its own domestic terrorism law to neutralize threat of domestic terrorism should be examined against the backdrop of the US and its allies pushing Sri Lanka to do away with the PTA. The government, especially the relevant ministries should be mindful of the US response to the Capitol attack, Gamage said, expressing concern at the failure on the part of those responsible to take notice of the unprecedented development.

In the absence of a domestic terrorism law the U.S. cannot proscribe internal anarchists though it can ban foreign groups. The LTTE is one such group proscribed by the US in 1997. Experts are of the view domestic terrorism law would facilitate nationwide search warrants, expanded law-enforcement access to tax and educational records, and harsher sentencing.

According to documents available with The Island, the then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in a letter dated Sept 20, 2016 informed the cabinet of the appointment of a committee to replace the PTA with a new Counter Terrorism Law. Premier Wickremesinghe said that he wanted the new law to be in full agreement with international human rights obligations while providing sufficient capacity to deal with terrorism here. Another document revealed how Premier Wickremesinghe chaired a Temple Trees meeting on Dec 16, 2016 attended by Justice Minister Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakse, Law and Order Minister Sagala Ratnayake, British HC James Dauris, French Amb Jean-Marin Schuh, EU delegation Chief  Tung-Lai Margue et al to discuss the new law.

Authoritative government sources told The Island in spite of the change of government a section of the international community was pushing Sri Lanka hard to repeal the PTA. The ongoing dialogue between Sri Lanka and the EU covered the contentious issue of introducing a new Counter Terrorism Law. Sources pointed out how the previous UNP-led administration tried to justify the introduction of a new Counter Terrorism Law due to their own failure to thwart 2019 Easter Sunday carnage. The then Premier’s Office vigorously campaigned for the repealing of the PTA. The UNP propagated that a new Counter Terrorism Law was required to thwart international terrorist groups targeting Sri Lanka. This assessment was made on the basis the ISIS carried out the Easter Sunday attacks under the existing PTA.

Dr. Wasantha Bandara of the Federation of National Organization (FNO) yesterday told The Island that the way the US handled the perceived domestic terrorist threat was a lesson to Sri Lanka. They acted in unison regardless of political differences though in Sri Lanka those in power and the Opposition could never agree on matters of national security. The Easter Sunday carnage underscored the continuing threat posed by terrorism and the need to be ever vigilant to face any eventuality.

Dr. Bandara pointed out that those allegedly involved in the Easter Sunday carnage were arrested in terms of the PTA. Among the arrested were lawyer Hejaaz Hizbullah whose detention was taken up in Geneva by the Core Group on Sri Lanka bent on punishing the country on the basis of unsubstantiated war crimes accusations.

 

 



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AG says no legal impediment to Bathiudeen attending Parliament

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Public Security Minister: Those detained under PTA shouldn’t be allowed in

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Attorney General Dappula de Livera, PC, says there is no legal impediment to Opposition MP Rishad Bathiudeen attending Parliament while being detained in terms of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).

The CID arrested the leader of the All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) in the early hours of April 24 for aiding and abetting the 2019 Easter Sunday suicide bombers.

Multiple blasts in different locations killed 270 people and wounded about 500.

The AG set the record straight in the wake of the CID failing to arrange for MP Bathiudeen to attend Parliament on May 4 and 5.

The Island learns that Police Headquarters recently consulted the AG as regards the legality of the Vanni District SJB MP attending parliamentary sessions and the SJB, on his behalf, requested the Speaker to facilitate the arrangements.

The ACMC contested the last general election on the SJB ticket. Its parliamentary group comprises four, including Bathiudeen.

The police sought the AG’s advice after having received a missive from Serjeant at arms Narendra Fernando in that regard. The AG has advised the police that MP Bathiudeen could attend parliamentary sessions.

However, Public Security Minister Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera has advised the police against the ACMC leader attending Parliament. The Minister has issued instructions in this regard having requested the Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena to prevent those detained under the PTA from attending parliament.

MP Bathiudeen has been detained for a period of 90 days pending investigations. His brother Riyajj too has been detained under PTA for 90 days.

 Minister Weerasekera, in Parliament yesterday (5) defended his decision to prevent MP Bathiudeen from attending parliament. Dismissing concerns raised by SJB MP Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka and TNA MP M.A. Sumanthiran about the ACMC leader being deprived of his right to attend parliament sessions, Minister Weerasekera emphasized that he was responsible for public security.

Minister Weerasekera reminded Speaker Abeywardena that he had requested him not to allow anyone detained under PTA to attend parliament pending conclusion of investigations.

Weerasekera said that the CID wouldn’t have detained the MP concerned without valid reasons.

Perhaps, Field Marshal Fonseka had no concerns for public security, the former Navy Chief of Staff said, emphasising that the government wouldn’t conduct investigations the way the former Army Commander and the TNA spokesman desired.

Bathiudeen earlier served in the Cabinets of President Mahinda Rajapaksa (2010-2014) and President Maithripala Sirisena (2015-2019). The ACMC switched its allegiance to SJB at the 2020 August parliamentary election after having backed Sajith Premadasa’s candidature at the 2019 presidential.

Bathiudeens’ lawyer Rushdhie Habeeb told The Island that the decision to prevent MP Bathiudeen from attending parliament was political. Habeeb said that the issue at hand would be raised vigorously, both here and abroad, and a media briefing would be called soon to explain the situation.

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MONLAR draws attention to ticking COVID time bomb in plantations

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

A large number of estate workers had been diagnosed with COVID-19, and given the generally congested living environment and lack of health facilities on plantations, the entire estate sector was a ticking time bomb, Moderator of the Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR) Chinthaka Rajapakshe said yesterday.

Rajapakshe told The Island  that the latest outbreak on the estates had occurred after the return of some persons from Colombo during the Sinhala and Tamil New Year.

“We had warned that this would happen. People kept on returning home although the preparedness of the plantation economy to face a COVID-19 outbreak was non-existent.”

 “If one person gets it, the entire line will get it, and therefore urgent steps should be taken to minimise COVID-19 spread,” Rajapakshe said, adding that such an eventuality would not only destroy lives but also cripple the plantation sector, causing an enormous loss to the state coffers.

 

 

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Clandestine dealings of fishers will precipitate spread of deadly Indian variant here – Expert

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

There was a risk of the deadly Indian COVID-19 variant spreading to Sri Lanka as well, Chief Epidemiologist of the Ministry of Health, Dr. Sudath Samaraweera told the media yesterday in Colombo.

Dr. Samaraweera said that Sri Lankan fishermen continued to interact with their Indian counterparts in mid-sea and therefore it was only a matter of time before the Indian variant entered Sri Lanka.

“We must be extremely vigilant. We have seen the devastation caused by this variant in India. These mid-sea interactions by the fishing community must be stopped.”

Dr. Samaraweera added that although the Dambulla Economic Centre

had been reopened for business yesterday morning, health officials had been compelled to close five shops as their owners violated the Covid-19 protocol.    

“This is a commercial hub where people from all parts of the country converge. So, if there are COVID-19 cases here, then it will spread across the country. Therefore, people have to act carefully and responsibly.”

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