Lawyers condemn the two controversial draft bills. Stresses attempts to enact dangerous laws to crush dissent and curb civil liberties can cause great alarm.
The Lawyers’ Collective, a civil society group consisting of legal practitioners in Sri Lanka issued a statement condemning the recently proposed Anti-Terrorism and Online Safety Bills which were published through gazette announcements this year.
The collective said the government has failed to respond to the serious and fundamental concerns raised about the Anti-Terrorist Bill and adopt any transparent and accountable process through which the bills were explained, justified, and robust public consultation facilitated before they were gazetted.
“The definitions adopted for ‘terrorism’ and ‘false statement’, and related offences created under the two bills are excessively broad and vague and thus do not represent a measured and proportionate means of serving specific and necessary law and order objectives. Indeed, the Anti-Terrorism and Online Safety Bills represent an attempt to institutionalize excessive executive discretionary power over a broad range of ordinary activities of the citizens of Sri Lanka,” they said in the statement.
The organization said attempts to rush into the enactment of dangerous laws that have a high potential to crush dissent and curb civil liberties can cause alarm at a time when the country’s democracy quotient is historically low.
“Citizens of this country are currently making a wide range of demands on their elected representatives and government officials in the context of the deep economic crisis and the bearing it has on their lives. Democracy demands that the widest possible space be created at this time to hear citizens’ grievances and to engage citizens and citizen groups, especially vulnerable communities,” it added.
They also noted that the intolerance represented by the two proposed laws towards legitimate dissent, critique, opposition, and organizing around different ideas and solutions for governance in Sri Lanka is a direct threat to democracy, civil liberties, and the role of the judiciary in protecting citizens’ sovereignty against executive capture.