Amending PTA: Govt. awaits expert comm. recommendations  

  • Justice Minister assures Govt. ready to make necessary changes  
  • President’s PTA Advisory Board to commence work tomorrow 

BY Yoshitha Perera

The Government is awaiting recommendations by the expert committee comprising senior officials from three ministries, namely, Justice, Defence, and Foreign Affairs, which was appointed to revisit the provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act, No. 48 of 1979 (PTA), in order to carry out amendments to the Act, The Sunday Morning learnt. 

Speaking to us, Justice Minister M.U.M. Ali Sabry PC said that at the moment, the expert committee is reviewing the provisions of the PTA, and the Government is ready to make the necessary amendments. 

“We are basically waiting for the expert committee to come back to us on the necessary amendments to the PTA, and once the expert committee does so, we’ll take the matter forward.” 

Meanwhile, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa appointed an advisory board on 25 August in accordance with Section 13 of the PTA, the Presidential Secretariat’s Legal Affairs Director General Attorney-at-Law Harigupta Rohanadeera said.

Issuing a media release, he noted that the advisory board is expected to make recommendations and advise the President on the investigation, release, granting of bail, and future action related to suspects imprisoned over terrorist activities and under detention orders.

The said advisory board would commence work tomorrow (30) and it would be chaired by retired Chief Justice Asoka de Silva and comprise retired High Court Judge A.A.R. Heiyanthuduwa and retired Solicitor General Suhada Gamlath PC as its other members.

The PTA has been identified as a draconian law owing to the admissibility of confessions given to certain police officers as evidence in courts despite reports that torture is employed to extract confessions, and due to prolonged detention that constitutes punishment, and many claim that it has also been used for arbitrary arrests.

However, denying all these claims made recently by several international partners including the European Union (EU) and many local organisations and activists, government authorities constantly state that they would make necessary amendments to the current provisions in the PTA.

On 10 June, while expressing deep concern over the increasing human rights violations in the country, the European Parliament had drawn attention, through a resolution, to the need to abolish the PTA.

It also requested the EU to initiate a procedure for the temporary withdrawal of Sri Lanka’s Generalised Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) trade concession.

Speaking earlier in Parliament, Ministry Sabry explained that following a cabinet meeting, the Government had decided to make appropriate changes to the PTA whilst ensuring national security. He also highlighted that the decision to amend the PTA was not a result of the EU resolution on it.

However, on 14 June, releasing a statement to the media, the Foreign Affairs Ministry stated that the Government is in the process of considering the existing provisions of the PTA, in keeping with its commitments while mentioning that this process has been communicated to the EU.

According to the statement: “The Government is studying existing legislation to propose necessary amendments, and will also draw on international best practices adopted by other jurisdictions.”