Saturday 17 June 2023

17 June 2023

Gajalakshmi Paramasivam





The government’s obsession with the idea of suppression of people’s agitations irrespective of their merit or demerit is again well manifested by the Anti-Terrorism Bill which was published on March 22 this year. The Bill seeks to replace the draconian Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act of 1979 which drew wide criticism against it from local and international human rights organizations and civil society organizations.’ – MSM Ayub in his article ‘Comedy of Terrors A government haunted by the memory of Aragalaya

How does one determine whether the steps taken by the government are obsessive or preventive? It may be both at the same time, within the Parliament. If the Parliamentarians voted on the basis of their belief, then it is valid. If valid, it would be worked by the Parliamentarians. But Sri Lankan parliamentarians are known to ‘trade’ and ‘gamble’ with their positions. The People did not ‘protest’ when that came to light. Aragalaya happened when the folks felt and/or saw economic hardship. Many of the media reports during the time, was to highlight economic hardship. This included Australian ABC reports that I could not identify with, as a common Sri Lankan. To the extent one feels ownership, and expresses that feeling through one’s declarations in words and/or actions, their ownership Energy would become part of the causal forces of the change. Energies of deep owners are often least visible.


The question before us is about the author’s ownership. MSM Ayub writes :


Justice, Prison Affairs and Constitutional Reforms Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe presented in Parliament another piece of legislation called the Bureau of Rehabilitation Bill on September 23 last year, apparently with the same objective of suppressing dissent.  

The Bill very clearly seemed to be meant to hound those who agitated between April and July last year demanding relief from the economic hardships and a total “system change.” According to the Bill, “the objective of the Bill shall be to rehabilitate drug dependent persons, ex-combatants, members of violent extremist groups and any other group of persons who require treatment and rehabilitation …

Several fundamental rights petitions were filed against this Bill and the petitioners argued that the categories of persons and groups cited in the Bill to be rehabilitated are ill-defined and do not clarify how these persons may qualify for rehabilitation.  

Ambika Satkunanathan, the former Human Rights Commissioner, who was one of the petitioners, in her petition says that the use of such vague and arbitrary classifications can thus lead to persons being detained for rehabilitation for even participating in protests.’

Every institution that by law, is an independent unit, has the right to publish its findings within the boundaries of its sovereign power. This applies to the Human Rights Council also. The sovereign borders of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, are as per the HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION OF SRI LANKA ACT,NO.21 OF 1996.


After Ms Satkunanathan left the commission, her sovereign borders are defined legally in the Fundamental Rights articles 10 to 17 of the Constitution.


Mr MSM Ayub continues as follows:


The Court determined that the controversial Bill was, as a whole, inconsistent with Article 12 (1) of the Constitution.

Article 12 (1) of the constitution reads:  

“All persons are equal before the law and are entitled to the equal protection of the law.”  

According to the determination by the apex court, the inconsistency with Article 12 (1) will cease if all references to ‘ex-combatants’, ‘violent extreme groups’, and ‘any other group of persons’ are deleted from the bill, and if the Bill is limited to rehabilitation of drug dependent persons and such other persons as may be identified by law.  

As if the government’s very target was those three groups, it dumped the Bill following this ruling.  

The government and the drafters of the Bill should have considered the Supreme Court ruling on the regulations gazetted by former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to rehabilitate ‘extremists’ on March 12, 2021.  

Those regulations sought to send ‘extremists’ to rehabilitation centres for one year, without them being tried by any court. Those regulations also did not define the term ‘extremists.’  

The Supreme Court suspended the gazette in August last year after considering a Fundamental Rights petition filed against it.’

The above ruling by the  Judiciary and its acceptance by the government, while being positive, did not prevent Mr Rajapaksa from dismissing himself from the position of Presidency. There is consensus on ‘what happened’. Each sovereign group/person would have contributed to why it happened, as per their own sovereignty. Given that the ethnic war issue was extended to UN level by Tamils with the support of the West, the sovereign powers of all of them also contributed to the resignation.

Every leader, needs to recognize this nuclear power of sovereignty as structural changes at fundamental levels of their own organisations/selves.

The Supreme Court ruling is already part of the ‘past’. We need to make it our ‘present’ through rules and processes that protect our sovereignty as individuals. The Truth in our thoughts would do the rest.

Protests without truth would lead to weakening of the opposition power. True Opposition is invisible, except to protect and propagate itself. Hence non-violence.


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