The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) has called for the withdrawal of the Penal Code (Amendment) Bill, placed on the Order Paper, citing that its provisions were identical to those of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), it is learnt.
The government has decided to criminalize hate speech through the proposed legislation.
The Bill seeks to introduce a new provision (Section 291C) to the Penal Code, No. 11 of 1887. A further Bill seeking to amend the Criminal Procedure Code Act, No. 15 of 1979 was also placed on the Order Paper.
However, the TNA led by Opposition Leader R. Sampanthan said the proposed Section 291C was identical to Section 2(1)(h) of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act, No. 48 of 1979 (PTA).
“The previous government used this very provision to target persons from the Tamil and Muslim communities and to deprive them of their freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under Article 14(1)(a) of the Constitution. We recall that Tamil journalist J.S. Tissainayagam was convicted by the High Court of Colombo and sentenced to 20 years rigorous imprisonment under Section 2(1)(h) of the PTA. We also recall that Muslim politician Asath Salley was arrested and detained under Section 2(1)(h) of the PTA. Both these persons were critical of the previous government’s policies, particularly with respect to the treatment of minority communities. These incidents and others like them prompted international condemnation of the previous government’s use of the PTA to suppress media freedom and dissent," the TNA said. We therefore wish to state that we strongly oppose the Penal Code (Amendment) Bill on the grounds that it is inconsistent with Article 14(1)(a) of the Constitution, which guarantees to every citizen the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression including publication." (Kelum Bandara)