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NTJ, JMI banned

28 Apr 2019

By Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema President Maithripala Sirisena's move to ban the National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ) and Jamathei Millathu Ibraheem (JMI) in the country under Emergency Regulations is an immediate response to combat the current crisis while working to formulate new anti-terrorism laws similar to the anti-terror legislation in Australia, The Sunday Morning learnt. Defence Ministry sources told The Sunday Morning that initial work on the new anti-terrorism laws have already commenced. Both NTJ and JMI organisations that were banned yesterday were linked to the deadly Easter Sunday terror attacks in Sri Lanka. The ban was implemented in terms of the powers vested in him as the President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka under Emergency Regulations No. 01 of 2019. As such, all activities of those organisations as well as their property will be seized by the Government. The President’s office said that steps are also been taken to ban other extremist organisations operating in Sri Lanka, under Emergency Regulations. Meanwhile, President Sirisena said that work has commenced on drafting the required legislation based on Australian anti-terror laws to ban more extremist organisations in the aftermath of the Easter Sunday attacks. The President made this statement during a meeting with heads of media institutions on Friday (26). Speaking on the call to ban the NTJ, of which Mohomad Zahran (also known as Sahran Hashim), the alleged mastermind of the Easter Sunday attacks, was a member, the President noted that the existing laws needed to be amended for the purpose. “We looked into banning the NTJ on 22 April (the day after the attacks). But we don’t have the laws to be able to do that right now. Countries like Singapore and Australia formulated new laws for the purpose. We are now looking into legislation passed by the Australian Parliament to help us draft the required laws. We will get this done very soon,” Sirisena said. According to the President, although movements like NTJ could be banned under Emergency Regulations, the lifting of the regulations would result in the lifting of the ban as well. The President last week met with a group of private lawyers and handed them a copy of the Australian legislation asking them to prepare a draft for Sri Lanka, which can be shared with the Attorney General (AG) for the final touches. The Sunday Morning learnt that the issue of new legislation to ban extremist organisations as well as to act against locals who have affiliations with foreign terrorist organisations has been discussed at the National Security Council (NSC) meeting last Friday (26). However, legal experts state that proscription of a terror organisation could be done in two methods. Firstly, it could be done by way of regulations in the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). Secondly, it could be done through presidential powers under Emergency Regulations. A senior legal export told The Sunday Morning that the banning of the NTJ and other extremist organisations could be done by one or both ways mentioned above. When questioned whether a terror organisation listed under UN regulations could not be banned in Sri Lanka, the legal expert noted that if the said UN regulations are included in the local UN Act, there needs to be domestic legislation on the matter in place to do so. “New counter terror laws in bill form that have been cleared by the Supreme Court are before a parliamentary oversight committee pending legislative passage. What can be done is to study other provisions and see if there’s a need to amend the existing draft and move forward,” the legal expert said.

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