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The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) highlighted that the government must provide for constant judicial intervention when bringing in proposed new security laws, including one to replace the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act, No. 48 of 1979 (PTA).

Apart from the proposed Prevention of Organized Crimes Act which is to replace the PTA, the government has proposed to enact the National Security Act and the Intelligence Act. The triumvirate of laws are aimed at preventing the reemergence of terrorism, consolidating inter communal harmony, and protecting the rule of law and national security. Certain provisions of the said National Security Act are expected to be incorporated into the proposed new constitution.

President of the BASL, President’s Counsel Geoffrey Alagaratnam said that the definition of national security should be in accordance with international norms.

Excessive power should not be granted to the Executive, he added.

A proper balance must be struck between protecting the legitimate interests of the State in terms of preserving national security and also the rights of the individual, he observed.
“The PTA afforded excessive power to the Defence Secretary and the Executive. There was no judicial supervision. There were long periods of incarceration. Arrests were made based on questionable reasons. Detentions were incommunicado. New laws including the one replacing the PTA cannot give too wide an ambit to the Executive. Judicial supervision in terms of the enlargement of bail and other measures must be provided for. The extent to which these proposed concerns are accounted for within these new Acts must be looked at,” he remarked.