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    Counter Terrorism Bill does not contain relief package for terrorists - PM Featured

    May 09, 2019

    There is no need to view the Counter Terrorism Bill as a boogeyman and it certainly does not contain a relief package for terrorists as some try to claim, said Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in Parliament yesterday. He called on all parties to join hands in dealing with this terror threat and if there are any recommendations from the other parties, he called upon them to discuss them with the government.He said this in response to several questions raised by JVP-MP Anura Kumara Dissanayake during the second day of the debate on the current security situation in the country.

    In response to an article published in a newspaper on Tuesday that this could be done using the existing Penal Code, the Prime Minister said, “I like to remind them that there are ongoing conflicts with competing power centres in Syria, where the US, Russia, Iran and Turkey have all intervened. We do not want get drawn into such a situation. Therefore, the defence lawyers can contend that there is no central power or authority in Syria and that this provision does not apply to a civil conflict intervened with terrorism. The question is we talk of a foreign power in alliance with us and that is a matter that can be questioned in Parliament. But, Section 3 of the Counter Terrorism Bill states, intimidating a population can be brought under that. Therefore, all those who have returned from Syria can be brought under the ambit of this bill.”
    “Hence, I would like to ask what the relief package is? Having brought KP and providing him all the facilities is a typical relief package, not this. Hence, we need to set aside out political allegiances and join hands to strengthen the legal framework to deal with terrorism,” he said.
    MP Anura Kumara questioned if the government was aware of any person or group having links with the ISIS and if so since when? “On how many persons who had received training by ISIS does the government have information? Have they returned to the country and when? Has ISIS foreigners arrived in this country and when? What measures has the government taken against them? Has the Prime Minister or any member of the government stated that the laws in the country are insufficient to deal with the ISIS threat prior to April 21? When?”

    The Prime Minister said, “I took measures to notify Parliament and the people regarding this after the April 21 attacks. Yesterday, the President and I spoke on this issue and the IG’s report was tabled in Parliament. In my statement yesterday, I explained the background of this group. The IG’s report also contains the details of this group.”

    He noted that from the point that Alfred Duraiappa was killed in July, 1975 the country did not have the required legal provisions to deal with terrorism. “Only the provisions of the Penal Code was prevalent. That was why we introduced the Terrorism Prevention Act in 1979. In Paragraph 2 of the Terrorism Prevention Act, terrorism was categorised as a punishable offence. But, it was limited to offences committed within Sri Lankan soil only. Today, we are not facing traditional guerrilla warfare but it has gone beyond that. If a person drives a motor vehicle and kills a group of people, it is not dealt with as a traffic offence, but as an act of terrorism. Hence, measures have been taken to introduce the Counter Terrorism Act as the existing provisions are insufficient. We have held several rounds of discussions in this regard. In 2016 Minister Sagala Ratnayaka prepared a paper with the assistance of experts. Based on that we gazetted and presented the draft to Parliament. Now it’s at the Sectorial Oversight Committee for their recommendation. I have made recommendations to the House to have this passed by this year.”
    Joining the debate, Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa said they were against it but urged the Prime Minister to appoint a powerful Select Committee to discuss about the Counter Terrorism Bill. He said the whole country is not convinced about the Counter Terrorism Bill. The Prime Minister agreed to the Opposition Leader’s suggestion.However, MP Chandima Weerakkody told the Prime Minister that it would be sufficient to incorporate amendments to the existing laws to deal with this terrorism threat and there was no requirement for a new bill.
    Govt. to discuss shifting Rehabilitation Centre for ex-LTTE combatants - PM
    Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said in Parliament yesterday that the government would discuss with the officers to shift the Rehabilitation Centre for ex-LTTE combatants which is conducted at the Northern Province Co-operative Training Institute building to another place. He was speaking in response to a query made by TNA Parliamentarian Charles Nirmalanathan during the round of questions to be raised from the Prime Minister. MP Nirmalanathan further said that the Northern Province Co-operative Training Institute building had been used as a rehabilitation centre for more than 9 years and only one ex- LTTE combatant is being rehabilitated at present.
    He added that this matter was discussed at the Vavunia District Co-ordinating Committee meeting where it was decided to shift the Rehabilitation centre from that building. But, So far nothing has been fulfilled.
    The Prime Minister further said that the same building was taken over by the Defence Ministry on May 16, 2009 and it is now maintained under Rehabilitation Commissioner General Bureau that comes under the Resettlement and Rehabilitation, Northern Province Development Division Of the National Policies, Economic Affairs, Resettlement and Rehabilitation, Northern Province Development, Vocational Training and Skills Development and Youth Affairs Ministry.

    He also said that that the same centre is being maintained to rehabilitate those who have been directed by the Courts. “The other matter is the relatives of those rehabilitees need them to be rehabilitated soon in order to be reunited into society,” Prime Minister Wickremesinghe said.

    “This is the objective of this governmenrt as well,” he added.

    The Prime Minister also said that as the matter has been discussed at the Vavunia District Co-ordinating Committee, he would discuss the matter with MP Niramalanathan and other officials before a decision is reached.

     

    Call for proper implementation of National Languages Policy

    State Minister Eran Wickremaratne also highlighted the importance of proper implementation of the National Languages Policy in the country without deviating from it. Public instructions, road signs in the country cannot appear in languages like Greek, Latin and Sanskrit or Arabic, Wickremaratne pointed out.

    “There are two national languages and one link language in this country, Sinhala, Tamil and English respectively. It is not that we don’t understand the importance of using foreign languages such as Pali, Sanskrit, Greek, Latin and Arabic in, for example, religious activities. We must ensure the freedom of using those languages. Such usage should be limited to religious institutions and households. But outside these establishments, country-wide, we should strictly apply the national language policy.” Wickremeratne observed.

    Further speaking, “If for example, when road signs are used, they should appear in the three main languages., but they should not appear in Greek, Latin, Pali or Arabic. We have got to know that in some areas, the provincial councils have taken certain decisions pertaining to this. So it is imperative that the national languages policy be properly implemented in the country,” he said.

     

    Govt. should introduce laws against circulation of false information - Nimal Siripala

    SLFP MP Nimal Siripala De Silva urged the government to introduce laws against the circulation of false information that induces hatred and tension between ethnic communities.

    Starting the second day of the adjournment debate on the country’s situation after the Easter Sunday terror attack, MP De Silva pointed out that media freedom should be comprehensively used at crisis situations like the one that the country is undergoing at present.

    Speaking further, De Silva observed that the collapse of the country’s security system was a result of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution which created two power axis instead of one.

    “The Constitutional Council has proven to be a failure. It appointed the IGP but he did not cooperate with the Police Commission. This is why the SLFP always said we need the Executive Presidency and national security should be given priority. We need a very strong Executive,” De Silva continued.

    MP De Silva said the present government introduced the Counter-Terrorism Act to fulfill the demands of the European Union. “This Counter-Terrorism Act can give an ordinary citizen the death sentence while sending a terrorist to lifetime imprisonment,” he pointed out.

    “America shot Osama bin Laden. Did they communicate that to the Human Rights Commission? British Prime Minister Theresa May said no soldier of her country will be brought before courts on war crime allegations. Why do we need a democracy that Donald Trump or Theresa May do not entertain?” De Silva questioned.

     

    Muslims will help Security Forces defeat extremist terrorism - Minister Kabir

    Highways, Higher Education and Investment Promotion Minister Kabir Hashim extending his condolences to the victims of the Easter Sunday terror attacks, expressed regret to the entire nation for the crisis situation that the country is presently undergoing.

    Minister Hashim pointed out that the mainstream Muslim community has courageously come forward to pledge their full support to the Security Forces in battling extremist terrorism in the country.

    The Minister also pointed out that he has contributed to the best of his ability in fighting fanatical extremism that was raising its head in the country. He pointed out that his secretary was shot at, when they were assisting the forces to uncover such terrorist activities.

    He made these observations joining the adjournment debate on the crisis situation in the country following the Easter Sunday terror attacks.

    Minister Hashim also said that any interference by politicians on the application of the law on full face cover is a wrong move.

    He said so in reply to an allegation made by Opposition MP Wimal Weerawansa in relation to an incident where Western Province Governor Azad Salley has directed 10 Muslim teachers who have not adhered to the full face cover prohibition recently imposed by the government to another school when the school principal had informed them of the new law.

    “I am not aware of this incident. If a politician intervenes in such a matter, it is wrong. I will look into the matter,” Minister Hashim replied.

    Minister Hashim also requested the public not to identify the Muslim community with the extremist-terrorists. “They are fully cooperating with the Security Forces and their actions are commendable,” he said.

    “These fanatics don’t follow my religion. The Holy Quran specifically mentions on how to treat believers of other religions and on murder. Prophet Mohammad, in the Quran itself has warned us of these fanatics. It mentions of people whose hearts will be like iron rods. He warns of fanatics using Islamic religion for their own advantage,” Minister Hashim further pointed out.

     

    Rs.40 billion needed to upgrade NIC issuance system - Minister Vajira

    Home Affairs Minister Vajira Abeywardena said it has been estimated that Rs.40 billion is needed to upgrade the National Identity Cards (NIC) issuance system in keeping with modern technology to prevent crimes and terror activities being carried out using the NICs.

    Participating in the Adjournment debate on National Security following the Easter Sunday terror attacks in Parliament yesterday, the Minister pointed out that the country cannot be secure from global terrorism if we use outdated technology at vital institutions like the Department of Registration of Persons and the Department of Immigration and Emigration.

    “I have spoken about this with the Prime Minister at length. According to the estimations, we have to invest at least Rs.40 billion to upgrade the systems at the institutions I mentioned before.”

    Abeywardena noted that it is essential for Sri Lanka to pass the proposed Counter Terrorism Bill to combat global terrorism.

    “When the Prevention of Terrorism Bill was brought to Parliament in 1979, the Opposition claimed it would violate fundamental rights and silenced the Government’s opponents. When Amendments to the said Act in 1982 and 1988 were brought, the Opposition brought the same allegations.

    The old Hanzards will prove my claim.

    But having passed the PTA those accusations did not come true and the LTTE terrorists were eradicated. Now, when we want to pass the Counter Terrorism Bill, the Opposition again is making the same allegations,” he said.

    He said the Prevention of Terrorism Act was passed to handle the terror group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE). “It is a local organization led by a local leader. But what the country witnessed on April 21 was a result of global terrorism. The leader of that terror organization is a foreigner. Therefore, the Laws we have at present are not sufficient to deal with this situation,” he added.

     

    Govt, UN working on Pakistan asylum seekers - Eran

    Over 860 cleared to be repatriated to third country :

    State Finance Minister Eran Wickremaratne said the government, together with the United Nations is systematically observing the international law in finding countries to resettle the Pakistan refugees.

    He was speaking of Pakistani refugees who have been moved to several places following protests by people against them after the Easter Sunday terror attacks.

    “There are 1,698 asylum seekers and out of them 869 have already been cleared as refugees in the country. Forty have not been cleared and they will be repatriated within the next few weeks. These people have come here as refugees of a religious and ethnic minority. The information is available with the Defence and Foreign Ministries. They were cleared by the defence authorities. “We should look at these people as they are fleeing persecution in their country,” Wickremaratne said.

    “Out of these people 416 have already been accepted by the USA, seven by Great Britain, three by France and 160 by Canada. 234 have already submitted for clearance. We have about 1,000 of these refugees and the Sri Lankan government is systematically observing the international law and finding countries to resettle them elsewhere,” he said.

    Wickremaratne said the government will provide a relief package including a moratorium, tax concessions to strengthen the tourism sector which was affected by the Easter Sunday terror attack.

    Wickremaratne also highlighted the importance of proper implementation of the national languages policy without deviating from it.

    Public instructions, road signs in the country cannot appear in languages like Greek, Latin and Sanskrit or Arabic, Wickremaratne said.

    “There are two national languages and one link language in this country, Sinhala, Tamil and English respectively. It is not that we don’t understand the importance of using foreign languages such as Pali, Sanskrit, Greek, Latin and Arabic in, for example, religious activities.We must ensure the freedom of using those languages. Such usage should be limited to religious institutions and households. But outside these establishments, country-wide, we should strictly apply the national language policy,” Wickremeratne said.

    Further speaking, “If for example, when road signs are used, they should appear in the three main languages.But they should not appear in Greek, Latin, Pali or Arabic. We have got to know that in some areas, the provincial councils have taken certain decisions pertaining to this. So it is imperative that the national language policy be properly implemented in the country,” he said.

     Govt. created single body to apprehend Immigration and Emigration Act violaters

    The government combined the Observations Unit of the Department of Immigration and Emigration and the Immigration and Emigration Intelligence unit in 2018 to create a single body to observe and apprehend persons violating the provisions of the Immigration and Emigration Act, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said in Parliament yesterday.

    The Prime Minister made this observation yesterday in response to a query made by opposition member Dullas Alahapperuma during the round of questions to be raised from the Prime Minister stating that the government weakened the Immigration and Emigration Intelligence Observation Unit.

    The Premier said that there has been no move to render the Immigration and Emigration Intelligence Sections inactive. “We have expanded that facility,” the Prime Minister assured.

    The Prime Minister further said that the facility comprises for Deputy Controller of Immigration and Emigration, Assistant Controller and a staff of senior and junior officers to coordinate with the Police and other security agencies as per the needs arising. He added that action has been taken to apprehend the overstaying foreigners and to deport them while agreeing that there had been an increase of migrants who entered the country in the years 2016, 2017 and 2018 and then overstayed their visas.

    Prime Minister Wickremesinghe further said that Controller of Immigration and Emigration too had observed the increase of number of overstaying migrants. The Defence Ministry was investigating the reasons for the trend of foreigners staying illegally in the country.

    MP Alahapperuma in his question said that the media reported a number of Sri Lankans migrating from the country have been exceeded by the number of foreigners migrated into the country in the recent years. He added that there were over 11,000 foreigners remaining illegally in this country. As at April 20, the number of overstaying foreigners were 9,786. There were other 1,670 foreigners who had come here as asylum seekers. “Of those overstaying foreigners, over 50 per cent had come from countries that have been affected by the IS problem,” Alahapperuma said. “Andrew Huskings, a BBC journalist in his book Empire of Fear has marked these countries. “This is a dangerous threat. There are Chinese and Indian projects operating here and they have their nationals working in those projects. But in addition to them, there are 60 Lebanese, over 20 from Yemen, more than 53 from Palestine. There are more than 24 from Sudan and 32 from Iran. There are more than 1,500 asylum seekers in Negombo. They are there for more than five years. This is a dangerous situation.”

    Home Affairs Minister Vajira Abeywardena said that he could provide the accurate figures to MP Alapahapperuma. He added that there were several ways we issue visas. “We give tourist visas, we give working visas and student visas. We also give visas to foreign patients come for treatment in private hospitals here. There are 1,650 asylum seekers. We would take action to deport them. We do not let everyone coming to the airport to enter the country. around 10-15 are turned back daily,” the Minister said. “The process of raiding and deporting those who are staying illegally is taking place everyday.”

     

    Terrorism should be dealt with head on - Fonseka

    We still have not recovered from the danger. The politicians would not understand this. As a person with experience in the Security Forces, I and those with such experience would know that the danger is still lurking in the corner to strike at any time. The situation is still chaotic. Terrorism is not a problem that one could end within two, three weeks, said UNP MP Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka.

    Joining the debate in Parliament yesterday on the Security situation in the country, he stressed that this is not an issue that can be resolved by having meetings. “This situation demands a firm approach. This terrorist situation should be dealt with head on and nipped at the bud, otherwise it will fester into a big problem that will drag on for years.”

    Despite speculation, he said this was not a stand taken with the hope of siding with the Rajapaksa camp. “I would never join the Rajapaksa clan nor forget and forgive what was done to me.”

    He said,“a laid back casual approach is one of the serious obstacles to solve this crisis. The politicians capitalize on this crisis to sling mud at each other and score political points.

    The government needs the support and strength of the opposition to solve this problem. For that purpose the government too should be genuine. They cannot obtain the support of the opposition without taking a genuine approach. The biggest obstacle to solve this problem today is holding of the post of law and order portfolio by the President. We, the government should be given that ministry. The opposition too should support us to get it. That ministry should be renamed as the Ministry of National Security.”

    Fonseka opposed the reopening of schools at this point claiming that it is still not safe. “The Minister of Education asked me for my opinion. I told him that if I am given the chance to make that decision, I would not reopen the schools for children. Then, the Minister told me that it was crucial to open the schools or otherwise there would be delays in holding GCE Advanced Level and Ordinary Level examinations. But my opinion is that reopening of schools would endanger our children at this juncture. That decision should have been made after consulting the opposition too.”

     

    Easter Sunday attack cannot be taken lightly - Amunugama

    UPFA MP Sarath Amunugama said the Easter Sunday attack cannot be taken lightly and the whole country is living in fear as a result of those attacks. The world regards the Easter Sunday suicide bombings in Sri Lanka as the biggest attack, second only to the 9/11 attacks in the US, he said.

    “Today, the schools are empty. During the previous government when there was a war, we could have proudly claimed that we had the world’s best Security Forces and intelligence services. Because former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and then Army Commander Sarath Fonseka worked together, they were able to defeat the world’s most ruthless terrorist group. But what happened to the country since 2015?”

    He noted that since 2015 our security establishments have deteriorated badly. “In 2017 when certain Muslim factions took up arms and created clashes, the Muslim people brought up the issue and even provided names of these persons to the police. But what did they do? Who was in charge of Law and Order? This is not a weakness of the intelligence during just a week. This is terrorism which has been organising for the past four years. The government had ample information. The Muslims themselves complained,” he said, adding that the blame should first be accepted by those in charge of law and order.

    “My earnest request is for this government to kindly resign keeping their dignity intact. If you don’t take the blame, then the President should kick them out and appoint people who have knowledge and form an all-party government,” he said.

    He commended the earlier speech made by MP Sarath Fonseka and said it was a very comprehensive review of the situation. “This Cabinet is like the turkeys waiting for an early Christmas,” he added.

     

    Several Sri Lankan judges attend seminar in US - Gammanpila United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) MP Udaya Prabhath Gammanpila said an officer attached to the US Embassy in Sri Lanka had taken several Sri Lankan judges for a seminar in the US with the intention of interfering with the affairs of the Court.

    Gammanpila made this allegation during the Adjournment debate in Parliament yesterday, on the current security situation of the country.

    He said, “The US is trying to intervene with local affairs by manipulating our Court. The US Embassy in Sri Lanka recently organized a seminar for Sri Lankan Judges in the US. The topic of that seminar is ‘Money Laundering and Recovery of Stolen Assets.’ It was facilitated by the US Judicial Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).”

    “Nine senior Judges participated in this seminar. They are Supreme Court (SC) Judges Buwaneka Aluwihare, Priyantha Jayawardena, Vijith Malalgoda, Appeal Court Judges A.H.M.D Navas, Janak de Silva, Bandula Karunaratne, High Court Judges Sampath Wijeratne, Sampath Abeykoon and Champa Janaki. The Coordinator of the seminar was a US Embassy official named Patrick.

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