blundered on PTA: Raviraj
A Tamil parliamentarian said this week the Tamil United Liberation
Front (TULF) MPs had "blundered" in failing to oppose
the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). "This was a blunder
by Tamil MPs," TNA MP N. Raviraj told a seminar on the PTA
organised by the Centre for Human Rights and Development (CHRD)
and the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) held on July 19 - exactly
25 years to the day the controversial piece of legislation was enacted
MPs abstained from voting on the Bill after the then President J.R.
Jayewardene explained it was only a temporary measure to deal with
terrorism, he said while joining many speakers who condemned the
PTA and called for its repeal.
Rohan Edrisinha from the CPA said the PTA has been and still is
used to stifle political opposition, trade union rights and oppress
the people - rather than curb terrorist activities.
Paul Caspersz, a social justice campaigner who belonged to a group
that signed a petition condemning the law a day after (July 20,
1979) it was enacted, said the Tamils have legitimate rights which
are yet to be given to this day.
Punyasara, a Buddhist monk, said the law was used as an oppressive
measure against the minorities. It was so draconian that even spouses
of those kept in custody were unable to find where their husbands
were being kept.
PTA gave police the power to arrest any person, search homes without
a warrant and detain people for periods of up to 18 months without
trial. Jayatillake de Silva, a newspaper editor, said in the early
1980s he was asked to report to a local police station just to make
a statement, but didn't return home for three years!
was asked to come to the police station to make a statement. They
then detained me for a period of three years. My wife had a hard
time trying to find out where I was being kept," he said, adding
that the PTA had no respect for human rights.
PTA was introduced as a temporary law and titled "The Prevention
of Terrorism Act Temporary Provisions" to tackle acts of violence
against the state. It was meant as a temporary measure and was to
be removed from the statute book as soon as the threat abated. But
25 years later it still remains a law when so-called terrorists
have turned into freedom fighters and are now negotiating with the
state, speakers said.
of ethnic violence get Rs. 70 m.
Government is to pay more than Rs. 70 million as compensation to
people who were victims of ethnic violence in Sri Lanka during the
1981 to 1984 period. The Presidential Truth Commission on Ethnic
Violence appointed by President Chandrika Kumaratunga has selected
949 cases and recommended payment of compensation.
Commission has not recommended payment of any compensation in respect
of 253 cases as the claims were outside the mandate of the Commission
or there has been no proof or corroborative material in support
of the claims made.
respect of a further 37 cases, the Commission has recommended further
investigations before the claims could be finalized. The Presidential
Truth Commission Report prepared by former Chief Justice Suppiah
Sharvananda, PC Sathyaloka Sasita Sahabandu and PC Mohamed Zuhair,
elucidating upon the lack of responsibility shown by the then government
towards the riots said that "there was not a single leader
of Cabinet rank to at least appeal to the law-breakers to stop the
violence, apart from the Government's failing to perform its fundamental
obligations to protect the life and property of its citizens, even
by recourse to force".
Commission Report also read "the riots of 1983 were perhaps
not something that the majority of Sinhala people wanted to happen
or to participate in. Most of the witnesses who testified before
us said that when they were attacked they were helped by their Sinhala
neighbours, and many Sinhala homes gave them refuge".
a ceremony held on Friday to grant compensation to 30 out of 949
victims of the 1981-84 violence, President Kumaratunga said the
nation and citizens of Sri Lanka should collectively accept the
blame and make apology to the victims of the violence.
would like to assign myself the necessary task on behalf of the
government and all citizens of Sri Lanka to extend that apology.
It is still not late" the President said.