News

90-day PTA detention for IUSF Convenor

  • HRCSL complains to IGP on PTA, Sajith meets Ranil and objects to PTA use

BY P. Waravita

 

The Defence Ministry yesterday (22) approved a 90-day detention order under the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act, No. 48 of 1979 as amended (PTA) for the Inter-University Students’ Federation (IUSF) Convenor Wasantha Mudalige, Kelaniya University student activist Hashan Jeewantha, and Inter-University Bhikkhu Federation (IUBF) Convenor Galwewa Siridhamma Thera.

Defence Ministry Spokesman Colonel Nalin Herath confirmed to The Morning that the order was approved yesterday, which would see the detention of the three activists for 90 days.

The three activists were arrested on 18 August evening at a protest held by the IUSF in Colombo which urged the Government to release those who were arrested for being a part of the “aragalaya” (struggle). Since 18 August, they were held under a 72-hour detention order while the Police awaited approval for a 90-day detention order, which was only granted yesterday (22).

In a letter to IGP Wickramaratne yesterday, the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) said: “The recent iteration of the PTA has been grossly manipulated to exert tyranny through undemocratic methods and to justify the wrongful arrest of protestors.

“The Commission firmly informs that no suspect exercising their fundamental rights under the Constitution should be wrongly treated as a terrorist. The IGP must be equipped with all the necessary and reasonable evidence that these persons are responsible for any act of violence committed as terrorists under the PTA. The offences enumerated in Section 2 of the PTA should be viewed as those committed by suspects who could be identified as terrorists.”

The HRCSL said that it seeks to ascertain whether there are records of acts of terrorism that have occurred throughout the country as alleged by the Police since January 2022. Furthermore, the HRCSL has requested the IGP for the status of those arrested under the PTA.

Following a meeting with President Ranil Wickremesinghe yesterday (22), Opposition and Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) Leader Sajith Premadasa also stated that they “stressed their grave reservations on the use of the PTA as a State policy”.

Anti-Government protests were held around the island since the beginning of the year, demanding the resignation of then-President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. The “GotaGoGama” village was established at the Galle Face Green, where thousands of people, including the IUSF, protested for over three months. Largely regarded as a peaceful protest movement, the protest site was attacked by supporters of former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa on 9 May. At the time, the United National Party (UNP), led by the current President, condemned this attack. Following the resignation of Rajapaksa, Wickremesinghe was elected the President by the Parliament.