By Sandun A. Jayasekera
Kandy Development Minister Lakshman Kiriella yesterday threw an open challenge to opposition leader Mahinda Rajapaksa to tell the country at next week’s parliamentary debate on the state of emergency as to why he was opposed to the Counter-
Terrorism Bill. He said there was no provision to suppress the media or trade union action in the bill though such claims were made by the opposition along with the JVP. He told a news briefing at his office that the bill which replaced the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) of 1978 carried more teeth to successfully tackle local as well as global terrorism. “For instance, death penalty cannot be given to a terrorist or a group of terrorists despite the fact that they killed people in their acts of terrorism. Only life imprisonment on conviction can be given. Under the Counter-Terrorism Bill, this has been rectified and death penalty can be imposed on conviction of terrorist acts and murder,” he said.
Another provision in the bill provides for framing charges against terrorists in a local court if the suspect is a foreigner or the act of terrorism has been committed in a foreign country.
“Our main objective of enacting the bill is to update anti-terrorism legislation to suit present day legal requirements to confront head-on local and global terrorism. PTA does not have adequate legal provision to face this new challenge. The Counter-Terrorism Bill is not something new or alien to the country as it has first been presented in Parliament as far back as in 1979. It had been drafted in line with the PTA of Great Britain passed in 1974 to fight Northern Ireland separatist terrorism carried out by IRA. After 1979, it has been amended ten times. The PTA of UK further amended in 2005 after the series of bomb attacks in London. The US also enacted new counter-terrorism laws following 9/11 in 2001 on Twin Towers in New York and Pentagon in Washington DC. What we are doing by introducing the Counter-Terrorism Bill is updating and integrating all these legislation in one document to suit present day requirements. The Act will make it easier to fight terrorism, be it local or global,” he said. Opposition leader Mahinda Rajapaksa discussed the Counter-Terrorism Bill with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and me a few weeks ago and pledged the JO would support the bill. Then what is this change about? Why does he say the JO will never support to pass it in the House?” he quizzed.