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Counter Terrorism Bill drafted to fill vacuum to fight global terrorism: Prime Minister Ranil Wikcremasinghe in the House

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe 700 02

Prime Minister Ranil Wikcremasinghe has told the House that the Counter-Terrorism Bill was drafted to fill the vacuum to fight global terrorism. A group of professionals took part in preparing this Bill.

He also sought unconditional support of all political parties for the passage of the Bill.

Premier Wickremesinghe made this observation responding to questions raised by Opposition lawmaker Anura Kumara Dissanayake.

In his address in the House, Wickremasingeh said:

“We lacked the laws to control terrorism that started with the assassination of Jaffna Mayor Alfred Duraiappah in July 1975. We had the Penal Code. So, the Prevention of Terrorism Act No.48 of 1979 was moved. The second clause of this legislation identified terrorism as an offence but was limited to the boundaries of the country.

Let us discuss the evolution of British laws on counter terrorism. England lacked laws to prevent terrorism in Northern Ireland in 1971. A temporary Act was passed to prevent terrorism allowing the British Government to take action in Northern Ireland. However, the British Parliament passed many laws from 2000 to 2005 to prevent terrorism. The turning point of laws against terrorism was the attack on the World Trade Centre buildings in the US on 11 September 2001 followed by the London bombing on 7 July 2005.

Soon after 9/11, the British Parliament passed the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act. The Terrorism Act of 2006 has identified praising London bombing as an offence. Glorifying terrorism was made an offence. Later, the definition of terrorism also changed a few times.

With the fight against terrorism moving away from traditional warfare, it is no longer considered a traffic offence if a terrorist drives a vehicle into a group of people killing them. So, it is necessary to pass new laws to face these new situations.

The Counter-Terrorism Bill was drafted to fill the vacuum to fight global terrorism. A group of professionals took part in preparing this Bill. It was gazetted and was moved in Parliament. The Bill is now stuck at the Oversight Committee. Diverse issues including natural disasters and the Constitutional crisis delayed the Bill progressing. Non-experts are making comments on the Counter-Terrorism Bill.

But the question is whether we are able to take legal action against terrorist activities conducted in other countries? Can we obtain evidence against such activities? Anyone who identifies the Counter-Terrorism bill providing support to terrorists as well as those who criticise the Bill provides indirect support for global terrorism.

The second clasue this Act shall apply to any citizen of Sri Lanka, who commits an offence under this Act, within or outside the territory of the Republic of Sri Lanka, any person who commits an offence under this Act, wholly or partly, in Sri Lanka; in or over territorial waters of Sri Lanka; in the airspace of Sri Lanka; on board or in respect of an aircraft or vessel registered in Sri Lanka or belonging to or used by the Government of Sri Lanka.

The third clause gives the definition of terrorism. So, any person, who commits any act referred to in the subsection, with the intention of – intimidating a population; wrongfully or unlawfully compelling the Government of Sri Lanka, or any other government, or an international organisation, to do or to abstain from doing any act; preventing any such government from functioning; or causing harm to the territorial integrity or sovereignty of Sri Lanka or any other sovereign country, shall be guilty of the offence of terrorism. I would like to remind that there are ongoing conflicts with competing power centres in Syria. USA, Russia, Turkey and others have all intervened. We also do not want to get drawn into such a situation. Therefore, defence lawyers can contend that there is no central power or authority in Syria and this provision does not apply to a civil conflict intertwined with terrorism.

There are no benefits offered to terrorists in this legislation other than the necessary provisions to identify an act of terrorism committed to about in Sri Lanka an offence.”





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