PTA was big blunder by Tamil politicians - TNA MP
[TamilNet, Monday, 19 July 2004, 16:46 GMT]
“Tamil Parliamentarians committed a great blunder by not opposing the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). It was wrong on our part for not objecting or raising our voices against the draconian bill”, said Mr. Nadarajah Raviraj, Tamil National Alliance MP for Jaffna, speaking Monday at a public meeting in Colombo to mark the 25th anniversary of the PTA and to launch a campaign for its repeal. The meeting was organised at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute in Colombo jointly by the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) and the Centre for Human Rights and Development (CHRD).
|(Front row, from L) Hindu priest N. Kandasami, Rev. Paul Casparsz and Buddhist Rev. Mamankadwala Punyasar thera.
The PTA was made law in 1978. Thousands of Tamil men, women and children were indiscriminately arrested, tortured and detained for indefinite periods under the act. The government of Sri Lanka agreed to temporarily suspend the act under the provisions of the cease-fire agreement which that the Liberation Tigers negotiated with it in February 2002.
Mr. Raviraj called on all political parties to support the campaign to repeal the PTA. He said he was “pretty sure the Marxist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna would support the campaign as it had been at the receiving end of the draconian act in the early seventies and the late eighties”. He said that the attitude of the Sinhala Buddhist extremist Jathika Hela Urumaya towards the PTA is not known.
In his inaugural note, Dr. Rohan Edirisinghe, a director of the CPA, emphasised that the PTA was neither properly debated in Parliament nor was it sufficiently subjected to judicial scrutiny in the Supreme Court when it was made law.
“The determination of the Supreme on the PTA, whether any of its provisions was not in conflict with the fundamental rights chapter of the constitution, was made just in one page”, he said.
|Veteran trade union politician Mr.Bala Thampoe addressing the meeting.
|TNA parliamentarian, Mr.N.Raviraj addressing the meeting.
|Mr. K.D.Chandrapala Kumarage, a leading human rights and trade union lawyer addressing the meeting.
“The right to life, the right to be free of torture and the right to be free of punishment meted out by retrospective legislation are non derogatory and inalienable rights of the people. These are fundamental rights that cannot be surrendered by a people at any cost. Unfortunately the Sri Lankan state does not ensure the right to life in its constitution. The PTA is in contravention of these three inalienable rights of the people”, said Mr. K. D Chandrapala Kumarage, a leading human rights and trade union lawyer, in his address.
“The normal Penal Law of the Land clearly defines crime before it deals with the subject. But the PTA does not define terrorism and unlawful activities. So anything could be labelled as terrorism. This is preposterous”, Mr. Kumarage said, speaking in Sinhala.
He said the original aim of the PTA was to crush and stamp out the militant separatist movement in the north. ‘But the PTA’s objective was never achieved, instead we find that the LTTE has grown to equal strength with the Sri Lankan state’s armed forces today”.
The veteran trade union politician of Colombo, Mr. Bala Tampoe, argued in his address that if a group of people take up arms against a state one can’t argue that their actions are terrorism. “Those who rebelled against British rule in America were not labelled terrorists. They are now revered as the founding fathers of the American nation”, he added.