Friday, 25 June 2021 14:26

Statement on Release of Detainees and the PTA Issued by the Sri Lankan Collective for Consensus on 24 June 2021

Jehan Perera Colombo TelegraphThe presidential decision to pardon a group of LTTE suspects held in custody for many years without trial, and neglected by successive governments, is a welcome gesture meant to commemorate Poson and reaffirm the Buddhist message for peace and harmony for the world community also at this critical juncture of the Covid pandemic. Changing of the death sentences to life sentences is of significance locally and globally where death sentences are outlawed. The undersigned members of the Sri Lankan Collective for Consensus (SLCC) urge the government to give favorable consideration to similar responsiveness in other cases as well.

We note that there are a much larger number of similarly situated persons continuing to be held in custody whose cases also need to be considered with equal compassion. 

We also note that the pardon of former parliamentarian Duminda Silva who was convicted for murder by a decision of the courts of law, and upheld by the Supreme Court does not fall into this category of release of persons in long-term custody without legal action being taken against them. We do not condone political interference with the criminal justice system and arbitrary release of convicted persons because of political or other reasons.

The decision to release the long term LTTE prisoners comes in the aftermath of statements made in Parliament by the Hon Namal Rajapaksa, Minister of Sports and Youth who regretted the loss of youth of those incarcerated for a longer period than he had lived. We also appreciate the statement made in Parliament that day by former Army Commander General Sarath Fonseka who observed that one of the persons who had sought to assassinate him 15 years ago during the time of war, and who had also been in the prison with him, continued to be imprisoned without his case being decided in court and asked for his release.

At the root of these long term detentions without trial is the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) which is now at the heart of a resolution by the EU Parliament to deny Sri Lanka the GSP Plus tariff concession that is of great importance to our economy. The PTA permits arrest without warrant and detention without the possibility of obtaining bail from judges unless the government agrees to it. This has been a source of abuse and injustice from the time the law was first promulgated in 1979. It has been used not only in the case of LTTE suspects but during the JVP insurrection and more recently to incarcerate suspects in the aftermath of the Easter bombings and also those whose political views are critical of the government in power.

We, the undersigned members of the Sri Lankan Collective for Consensus (SLCC) call for the repeal of the PTA, which has permitted a system of abuse to grow with impunity and the release of all detainees held under the PTA without trial. Apart from the release of long term prisoners held under this obnoxious law, we call for all prisoners held under this law to be released as we do not want them to end up as the next generation of long term prisoners, and demand a fresh start at this time itself. We believe that this course of action is in the interests of the human rights of all Sri Lankans and will also help to preserve the GSP Plus tariff concession which is one of pillars of the sustainability of our economy.

Signed by: 

Rev. Kalupahana Piyarathana Thero

Rev. Fr. C. G. Jeyakumar

Dr. Jehan Perera

Dr. Joe William

Dr. P. Saravanamuttu

Prof. T. Jayasingam

Prof. Tudor Silva

Dr. Dayani Panagoda

Mr. Varnakulasingham Kamaladhas

Mr. Sanjeewa Wimalagunarathna

Ms. Sarah Arumugam

Ms. Azra Nazar

Ms. Visaka Dharmadasa 

The Sri Lankan Collective for Consensus is a group of individuals drawn from multiple sectors of society, religion, academia and non-governmental organisations. They are committed to a Sri Lanka that is founded on ideals of pluralistic coexistence, human rights and justice.