Cabinet Subcommittee for PTA amendments
Three months to make recommendations
By Pamodi Waravita
A Cabinet Subcommittee has been appointed to present recommendations with regard to the amendment of the controversial Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act (PTA), No. 48 of 1979 to the Cabinet of Ministers within the next three months.
The Morning learnt that the reforms are to be led by the Foreign Affairs Ministry, the Justice Ministry, the Defence Ministry, and the Public Security Ministry.
Justice Minister M.U.M. Ali Sabry PC stated in Parliament this week that the Government is ready to make changes to the PTA, following a Cabinet meeting on 21 June that has noted the need to make suitable changes to the Act to protect human rights and ensure national security.
The European Union (EU) Parliament, earlier this month, called on the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) to repeal the PTA and for the EU Commission to consider the temporary withdrawal of the Generalised Scheme/System of Preferences Plus (GSP+) from Sri Lanka if this is not done. However, Ali Sabry PC stated on 22 June that the decision by the Government to consider changes to the PTA is not a result of the EU Resolution on it.
Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MP M.A. Sumanthiran PC welcomed the announcement by the Government to make changes to the PTA, adding that the “draconian” PTA must be repealed.
On various occasions, organisations such as Amnesty International have raised concerns about the PTA. This year, Amnesty International released a statement calling for the immediate release of, or a fair trial for, poet Ahnaf Jazeem, who was arrested under the Act last year. The statement quoted the 2017 United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, Ben Emmerson, as saying that “the PTA had been used to commit some of the worst human rights violations, including widespread torture and arbitrary detention, in the run up to and during the conflict, particularly to target minorities and suppress dissent”.
In a study published in 2020, the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) has noted that “violence in Police custody was found to be an inherent element of the investigation process, whereby torture is inflicted to extract information, confessions, and evidence from detainees”, especially those arrested under the PTA.