While stating there was no need to create a bogeyman (Goni Billa) out of the Counter-Terrorism Act, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe today said that the need of the hour was to keep aside narrow political divisions and come together to strengthen the existing legal framework and face the terrorism threat.
The Prime Minister said that the people of the country are requesting the 225 MPs represented in Parliament to unite to defeat terrorism. “In order to fulfil that objective, I am requesting the support of everyone to unanimously pass the Counter-Terrorism Act,” he said.
The government may have to bring in laws to ban extremism and violence unleashed by any religious or ethnic group against another such group, the Prime Minister told Parliament yesterday.
Responding to a question raised by JVP Leader Anura Dissanayake, the Prime Minister said new laws are needed to fight global terrorism. “We will have to bring in new laws including legislation to ban extremism and unleashing violence by any ethnic or religious group against another such group.
Also, he said it will be possible to apprehend anyone who works against the Sri Lankan government in another country. He said the proposed CTA comprises such provisions, “ CTA contains provisions which are listed out in anti-terrorism laws in the UK. He said the UK introduced territorial jurisdiction when terrorism began in North Ireland.
“Sri Lanka first introduced Prevention of Terrorism Act in 1979 but did not have territorial Jurisdiction. We should have apprehended those who were working against Sri Lanka in countries such as Syria.
Quoting an article in Daily Mirror on Tuesday, the Prime Minister read the following “ I would like to remind that there are ongoing conflicts with competing power centre in Syria. The USA, Russia, Turkey, etc., have all intervened. We also do not want to get drawn into such a situation. Therefore, the defence lawyers can contend that there is no central power of authority in Syria and this provision does not apply to civil conflict intertwined with terrorism”.
However, the Prime Minister said Section 3 of the CTA states intimidating a population is an act of terrorism. He said wrongly or unlawfully compelling the government of Sri Lanka or any government or any international organization to do or abstain from doing any act preventing any government from functioning or causing harm to the territorial integrity or sovereignty of Sri Lanka or any other sovereign nation. Therefore he said all those who have returned from Syria are within the ambit of the CTA.
“I would like to ask as to what kind of package which the government is presenting to terrorists through CTA. The package is what was given to Prabahakaran’s successor KP,” he said.
He appealed for the support of all parties to enact the CTA. “Support us without trying to create a bogeyman,” he finally said. (Yohan Perera and Ajith Siriwardane)