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Rehab Bill to  have public  consultation

4 months ago

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BY Mirudhula Thambiah Prior to the related debate in Parliament, the Bureau of Rehabilitation Bill will be put through a consultative process, to allay any fears against this proposed piece of legislation, which would also be open to the general public to recommend changes, Minister of Justice Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe (PC) said. Dr. Rajapakshe, addressing a media briefing yesterday (13), said that he had initiated a consultative process and a dialogue with regard to the said Bill prior to the debate in the Parliament in order to avoid any phobia.  “Since there is a phobia about this Bill and lots of concerns being expressed by people, I have decided that before we take it up for debate in the Parliament, we will go through a consultative process and therefore, we will initiate a dialogue in this regard. Anybody who is concerned about the Bill can come and discuss it if there are any changes that we need for the betterment of society, which we are ready to do,” he added. Dr. Rajapakshe denied the view that this Bill had been drafted to punish those engaged in the “aragalaya” (people’s struggle).  “Some people are of the view that the Government is trying to target the people who were engaged in the ‘aragalaya’ and to punish them by introducing this law. There is no such thing; we can guarantee that there was no such kind of intention and that such a situation will not arise,” he added. He further added that at present, this Bill has been challenged by certain activists, and that these cases are pending in the Supreme Court. He noted that once the court considers the issues raised before it, it will forward its special determination to the Speaker of Parliament, who will then announce its decision in Parliament. “Initially, this was intended to rehabilitate the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) cadres who had surrendered, and they went through with it, but later on, it was expanded to drug addicts. After the Easter Sunday attacks in 2019, the officials have considered that misguided youth also could be brought within the scope of this Bill. Just to avoid certain legal repercussions, if they can be corrected and rehabilitated, that would be beneficial to them as well as to the society, and thus we have proposed this Bill,” he added. Dr. Rajapakshe also noted that this Bill had been drafted long ago, just after the conclusion of the conflict in the North and the East.  “The Government had undertaken to rehabilitate a large number of persons who were involved in some violence, basically in the war. But, there was no legal framework to rehabilitate them and as a result, the Government had considered introducing a legal framework within which such persons could be rehabilitated. Now, even after that, this rehabilitation process is in operation.” “We have several rehabilitation centres and the main one is at Kandakadu. There are a few reasons as to why this Bill had been drafted by the Ministry of Justice, and one of the reasons is that at the moment, if any parent or next of kin is wanting to send some person who is addicted to dangerous drugs into rehab, cannot send them to a rehabilitation centre maintained by the State because there is a requirement in the law that there has to be an order by a Magistrate for the process of rehabilitation,” he added.  Dr. Rajapakshe also said that now there are certain parents and relatives who are in need to send their sons, friends, or relatives for rehabilitation but at the moment they are reluctant to do so because they have to go through a court procedure.  “They consider it as a social stigma. In addition to that, the Justice Ministry and the former Minister had also considered the fact that there has to be some legal mechanism instead of the administrative mechanism for the process that is currently in operation.”