On the 11th of February 2022, The Centre for Policy Alternative and its Executive Director, Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, filed a Petition in the Supreme Court (SC SD 13/2022) challenging the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) (Amendment) Bill which was placed on the Order Paper of Parliament on 10th February 2022. The Bill seeks to make several amendments to the Prevention of Terrorism Act [PTA].
CPA has already published an initial commentary on the gazetted Bill pointing out that the Bill does not address the most fundamental problems with the PTA and explaining how the Bill falls short even in the limited areas it seeks to change.
CPA has for decades raised concerns with the PTA and continues to advocate for its repeal. This draconian law has been severely abused, resulting in torture, prolonged detentions, and the deprivation of several other fundamental liberties. While this proposed amendment seeks to amend some provisions of the PTA, the Petitioners argue that the proposed changes are not sufficient to protect against the continued abuse.
When the PTA was originally passed in 1979, then intended to be operative for only three years, it was referred to the Supreme Court as an ‘urgent Bill’, giving the Court only a few hours to reach a determination on its Constitutionality. Almost three years thereafter the PTA was amended, again as an urgent Bill, making the law a permanent and controversial part of Sri Lanka’s statute books for nearly 43 years.
In its Petition, CPA and its Executive director argue that the effects of the amendments proposed in Clauses 2, 3, 4, 6, 10, 11 and 12 of the Bill are unconstitutional, and such Clauses cannot be enacted into law, except if approved by People at a Referendum in addition to a two-thirds vote of the whole number of the Members of Parliament in favour as required by Article 83(a) of the Constitution.
CPA notes that the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court in a Special Determination of a Bill is narrow in scope and only deals with the effect of the proposed amendments. Thus, there are matters in the original law, which cannot be rectified through this process. As such CPA urges the Government of Sri Lanka to withdraw this Bill, and take genuine steps to remedy the decades of abuse that have taken place under the PTA. The PTA must be repealed, and steps must be taken to ensure that all Fundamental Rights and other Constitutional protections are granted to everyone.