Sri Lanka's cabinet has approved the proposed "Defence Cyber Commands Act" as well as a similar bill that aims to impose cyber protection under the guise of combatting "terrorist groups and criminals".
The proposal follows concerns raised by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, over Sri Lanka's increasing crackdown on human rights activists, Tamil victim communities, and civil society actors. Speaking before the UN Human Rights Council, Bachelet noted that “surveillance, intimidation and judicial harassment of human rights defenders, journalists and families of the disappeared have not only continued but has broadened to a wider spectrum of students, academics, medical professionals and religious leaders critical of government policies".
In detailing the proposals, Sri Lanka's Department of Government Information maintained that "terrorist groups and criminals have tended to use the cyberspace and electronic communication for terrorist activities, organized crimes and anti-social activities". It further maintained the need to regulate cyberspace as a matter of "national security" and for this to establish "established at the institutional level at present by the three - armed forces, Police and other agencies".
The statement is further detailed that laws intended to create a regulatory framework in line with the country's national defence strategy and to the prevention of risk activities that affect the cyber security as well as creating a formal cyber protected environment within the country”.
The statement follows a wide-reaching proscription of dozens of Tamil and Muslim organisations as well as hundreds of individuals in Sri Lanka. Additional there has been a dramatic increase in the number of detentions under Sri Lanka's draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act. In June, Bachelet raised her concerns over the continued harassment by Sri Lanka's security forces of Tamils and Muslims.