The recall, which the Government has already said it would follow, should be cause for the Government to demand the basis of the request from the UN. Prof. Peiris warned that such a situation could taint the professionalism of the entire armed forces and give impetus to foreign organisations who have already levelled accusations of human rights violations against the Army.
“We believe that the UN is issuing these allegations without any basis or investigation and we urge the Government to ask for reasons for this situation. In the past there have been times when external forces have sought to cast aspersions on our military and the Government has a responsibility to protect the good name of the armed forces,” he said.
The SLPP Chairman also cited the recall as an example of the failure of the Government to maintain high levels of foreign relations and diplomacy.
The party also criticised the draft of the Counter Terrorism Act which is expected to replace the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), charging that it provided loopholes for LTTE members to be dealt with leniently under the law.
Cabinet in September approved the Counter Terrorism Bill, which will replace the current Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).
Foreign Minister Thilak Marapana’s proposal to Cabinet to Gazette the Bill, which has been drafted with contributions from all stakeholders, was approved by the Cabinet with plans to make the amendments needed during the committee stage of the debate. The Counter Terrorism Act has been a crucial piece of legislation to preserve GSP+ and has been in the works for three years. The Draft Act would offer exceptions for members of the LTTE, insisted SLPP Chairman Prof. G.L Peiris during a press conference at the SLPP Headquarters. He alleged the draft law would prevent taking legal action against the members of the terrorist organisation irrespective of crimes they may have committed. He noted seven petitions had been filed in the Supreme Court contesting the legislation.
Prof. Peiris claimed under the draft law terrorists convicted for homicide would not have to face capital punishment while those convicted under the Penal Code would have face the death penalty for the same offence.
“A terrorist who killed 25 civilians from a bomb blast would get an exception while some other person who is convicted of the murder of one person would get the death penalty,” he added.
He also said that if the new law is passed the Attorney-General would get the opportunity to delay filing a case against a member of the LTTE for up to 10 years, adding that the Attorney-General would not even have any legal responsibility to file the case.
“If the LTTE member is seeking forgiveness or willing to engage in community service, under that he can get away from all wrongdoing,” he claimed.
He said that if Police or any other law enforcement agency arrests a terrorist member, the head of that particular agency would have to report it to the Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission.
Prof. Peiris also stated that under the new draft counter terrorism law the Magistrate is vested with the responsibility to personally observe the conditions the suspect is detained under.
Peiris also charged the Government had drafted the new counter terrorism law to fulfil the needs of external forces.