Cabinet nod for counter Terrorism Bill to replace PTA

The Cabinet endorsed yesterday the Counter-Terrorism Bill to be enacted by Parliament repealing the Prevention of Terrorism Act applied during the wartime in dealing with the activities of the LTTE.

However, Higher Education Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe
proposed amendments to be incorporated into the Bill during the committee stage of the debate later in Parliament.

In the present draft, only life imprisonment is stipulated for murder. Mr. Rajapakshe reportedly said capital punishment had been envisaged for murder under the Penal Code under normal circumstances, and therefore there could not be any exemption for the same crime to be covered under the new piece of legislation.

Also, the police have been cited as the implementing agency of the bill if enacted. However, Mr. Rajapakshe took up the position that the Defence Ministry should have the authority to implement the provisions of this bill as a piece of legislation dealing with national security.

Currently, the Prevention of Terrorism Act provides for taking court action based on confessions by terrorist suspects. However, such provision has been excluded from the new bill. An argument broke out between Mr. Rajapakshe and Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera over this.

Mr. Rajapakshe noted that the anti-terrorism law of the United Kingdom even contained provisions for court action based on confessions, and asked why Sri Lanka, as a country battered by terrorism, should deviate from it. Mr.Samaraweera, backed by Foreign Affairs Minister Tilak Marapana, argued otherwise.

Megapolis and Western Development Minister Champika Ranawaka stood for Mr. Rajapakshe in presenting his case at the Cabinet. President Maithripala Sirisena also agreed to the amendments proposed by Mr. Rajapakshe.

Another amendment was proposed to include separatism as an offence.

Finally, the Cabinet cleared the bill on condition that the amendments proposed by Mr. Rajapakshe would be incorporated during the committee stage. (Kelum Bandara)