'ER and PTA can only create a closed society'
[TamilNet, Sunday, 13 May 2001, 23:00 GMT]
"There is a great divide between the Sinhala and Tamil media today. Both are totally alienated from each other. The government is confused about public information and official information. The state run media give only official information.
This is one of the main reasons for the polarisation of the Sri Lankan media along ethnic lines. This polarisation is so strong that it is well nigh impossible when the need arises suddenly to promote ethnic harmony through the media in Sri Lanka today. The Mawanella incident is a case in point", said Mr.V.T Thamilmaran, senior lecturer in law at the University of Colombo, addressing a meeting organised by the Sri Lanka Tamil Media Alliance in Colombo Sunday.
|Mr. V.T Thamilmaran addressing the meeting. |
"The Emergency Regulations and the Prevention of Terrorism Act can only create a closed society and hence closed minds. There are no means for judicial review of special laws such as the Emergency Regulations, which curtail our rights when they are introduced. This is not in accordance with international norms", he said.
Answering a question on the Proscription of the Liberation Tigers Act of 1998, Mr.Thamilmaran said that it is an act that will be in force as long as the Emergency continues in Sri Lanka. "Although Prof.G.L.Pieris who was the Minister of Justice at the time told journalists it would not be used against them, in principle there is no guarantee that it wont be abused. The judiciary in Sri Lanka may respect the professional rights of journalists as a group but hardly that of an individual, particularly when he or she is a Tamil" he added.
|Dr. Jehan Perera. |
"Even in the case of freedom from torture, a fundamental right that cannot be overlooked for the sake of national security interests, affected individuals have to seek redress from the Supreme Court only after he or she has been subjected to torture. This is because everything in the Emergency Regulations and the Prevention of Terrorism Act encourage members of the Sri Lankan security forces to indulge in all manner of torture", a member of the audience pointed out during the discussion that followed Mr. ThamilmaranĚs talk.
Responding to a question as to why the PTA is applied selectively, that while hundreds of innocent Tamils have been and are arrested and detained under this law for failing to provide information about the Tigers, no action is taken against religious dignitaries and others who visit the Vanni to meet the LTTE and hence are guilty of the same crime, Mr. Thamilmaran said "Most fundamental rights in the constitution can be overlooked in the interests of national security. If one goes by the trend of judgements, a person has little chance of appealing to these rights particularly when he is a Tamil. The same may be said about the Proscription of the Liberation Tigers Act of and when the government decides to apply it".
Mr. Thamilmaran pointed out that unlike the Emergency Regulations and PTA, the Proscription of the Liberation Tigers Act of 1998 provides absolutely no room for judicial review when a person is punished under its provisions.
Dr.Jehan Perera, director of the National Peace Council and Mr. D.Sivaram also addressed the meeting. Dr.Perera spoke of his recent visit to Jaffna. The meeting was held at the Colombo Thamil Sangam auditorium. President of the Sri Lanka Tamil Media Alliance Mr. P.Manikavasagam presided.