JVP calls for the abolition of PTA
An opposition party in Sri Lanka has called on the government to repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) in addition to the emergency regulations.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Thursday announced the imminent withdrawal of the emergency regulations.
"I am satisfied that an extension of emergency is not required any more. So I inform that we will not extend the emergency any more,” the president told the parliament.
But the PTA, an equally stringent regulation, will still remain in force, the government announced.
The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) said the PTA should also be removed if the government is genuinely interested in re-establishing democracy in the country.
“Many more things needed to be done to re-establish democracy in the country. PTA should be removed and rule of law should be re-established,” JVP parliamentarian Anura Kumara told journalists in Colombo.
The government was forced to repeal emergency regulations as a result of increasing international pressure and UN Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) session scheduled in September in Geneva, according to the JVP.
Legal experts, meanwhile, point out that some draconian actions may remain despite the removal of the ER.
Senior lawyer Chandrapala Kumarage told BBC Sandeshaya, however, that the government will have to release, at least on bail, those who are currently detained under the emergency regulations.
Human rights watchdog Amnesty International said the government must follow up by removing other “repressive legislation” such as the PTA, and providing accountability for those who suffered during the years of civil war.
“Due process and accountability have eroded after three decades of reliance on sweeping security legislation under the state of emergency," said Sam Zarifi, AI’s Asia-Pacific director.
"The current administration has further degraded judicial independence by concentrating power in the President’s hands. Lifting the state of emergency is an important step, but the proof is in the treatment of detainees and government critics,” he added.
The international community has positively responded to the announcement by the president.
Welcoming the move, India’s External Affairs Minister SM Krishna said India would want Sri Lanka to investigate human rights violations in a transparent manner, according to PTI news agency.
Australia and Sri Lanka’s closest neighbour Maldives have also welcomed the move.
The United States that long stressed the importance of the withdrawal of the state of emergency said it is a significant step towards normalizing life for the people of Sri Lanka.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said: "We continue to urge the government of Sri Lanka to meet its international humanitarian law and international human rights law obligations.”
Robert Blake, US assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian Affairs, is meanwhile is scheduled to travel to Sri Lanka on 29 August.