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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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Stay on course and don’t go back to the past – Dr Indrajit Coomaraswamy

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Former Governor of the Central Bank delivering the keynote address at a high profile Webinar hosted by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka today (24)  said that Sri Lanka must implement the structural reforms proposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) without relaxing like in the past or else we will be in a deeper economic mess.

The webinar was titled ‘What is next for Sri Lanka in the wake of the IMF programme’

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Sustainable economic development goals cannot be achieved unless attention is paid to mitigating climate change – Sagala Ratnayake

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President’s Senior Adviser on National Security and Chief of Presidential Staff  Sagala Ratnayake said sustainable economic development goals cannot be accomplished without taking steps to mitigate climate change.

He said this while participating in the 10,000 sapling planting program organized by the LEO Youth Vision 2048 Club and the LEO Club at the Royal College, Colombo on Thursday (23rd).

This program was organized in view of President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s birthday, which is today (24), and the required plants were distributed to the main schools of the Colombo District.

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SF claims thousands of police and military personnel leaving

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By Saman Indrajith

Thousands of police and military personnel had left the services recently as they did not want to carry out illegal orders, Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka told Parliament yesterday. According to the war-winning army commander 200 policemen have resigned during the past two months and 25,000 soldiers have left the army during the last two years.

“We urged the law enforcement and military officials not to follow illegal orders. We will reinstate them with back pay,” he said.

Fonseka also urged the President and the government MPs not to take people for fools.

“Sri Lanka owes 55 billion dollars to the world. Ranil’s plan is to borrow another seven billion during the next four years. So, in four years we will owe 62 billion to the world.

Ranil and his ministers ask us what the alternative to borrowing is. These are the people who destroyed the economy and society. They must leave. Then, we will find an alternative and develop the country,” he said, adding that the IMF loans had made crises in other nations worse.

“Ranil says that by 2025, we will have a budget surplus as in Japan, Germany and South Korea. These countries are economic power houses, and this comparison is ludicrous.”

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