Minister of Justice Minister says tabling of the Bill in Parliament will be delayed to consider proposals and suggestions received
Claims unless one aspires to become a terrorist there is no valid reason to oppose the new legislation
Denies allegations that the new Bill is being enacted to target civil society groups and trade unions
Says no international objections to the new anti-terror draft Bill have been received
Justice Minister Dr.Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe
The Government has decided to postpone the tabling of the newly proposed Anti-Terrorism Bill in Parliament amidst the opposition and requests by various parties to delay its presentation.
Justice Minister Dr.Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe announced the decision to delay the Bill yesterday during a discussion held at the Ministry with civil society groups and transport trade unions. According to Rajapakshe, the Bill gazetted on 17 March will now be postponed to consider proposals and suggestions received on the draft Bill. “As a Government that listens to concerns raised by parliamentarians, lawyers and other civil society groups we have taken this decision to delay the Bill,” he said. “But if no one hopes to become a terrorist then there is no valid reason to oppose it,” he said. The Minister also denied allegations that the new Bill is being enacted to target civil society groups and trade unions. Accordingly, the Bill will now likely be tabled in Parliament in either late April or early March.
The decision comes after the Bar Association in Sri Lanka (BASL) and opposition political parties including the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) threatened to go to court against any legislation that would be a threat to the freedoms of the country’s citizens and democracy. The BASL said it would not hesitate to challenge any Bill that would deem to undermine the rule of law and the liberty of the citizens in Sri Lanka. The Association also asked for delaying its presentation claiming there had been no consultation of stakeholders in preparing the draft Bill.
However, commenting on the matter, Minister Wijeyadasa said the drafting of the Bill had commenced in 2015 and there is no intention to either protect the President or the Government through its introduction. He also said the Government has not been informed of any international opposition to the new draft Bill. According to him, the new draft Bill was formulated after the careful consideration of similar international laws in order to protect the country’s people and property. The Minister claimed many provisions allowing for the anti-terror laws to be misused have been repealed and replaced through the new draft Bill such as the powers vested in the President to issue detention orders.