TNA parliamentarian, Shanakiyan Rasamanickam, criticised the Sri Lankan government for arresting over 100 Tamil youngsters in the past year for allegedly “posting propaganda on social media” and demanded their immediate release.
“Minister Namal Rajapaksa today brought to attention that there were some prisoners who were remanded for over 30 years, but these children should be released on bail because this Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) is redundant,” said the TNA MP for Batticaloa at Parliament on Tuesday. “One of them [named Pradeepan] had been arrested yesterday for attempting to create a political party through Facebook. But he has been made a criminal by the government.”
Rasamanickam condemned the detained youngsters for being arrested under the PTA without any justification.
However, Sri Lankan Minister of Youth and Sports, Namal Rajapaksa defended the Sri Lankan government’s actions and insisted they were working on reviewing and systematically releasing the detainees.
“There are people who have been imprisoned for our lifetimes. Why are you talking about people who were only arrested yesterday?,” he questioned Rasamanickam.
Rajapaksa also maintained that the pardon given to convicted murderer, Duminda Silva was a “very positive development” and that Silva’s arrest was a “great injustice” imposed by the previous administration. His comments came despite widespread condemnation of the pardon, including from US ambassador to Sri Lanka, Alaina Teplitz, who added that the release “undermined rule of law”.
Rasamanickam noted that many murder convicts such as Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan, alias Pillayan, who was released after assassinating Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MP, Joseph Parajasingham, have been freed but innocent Tamils are being held in prisons for social media posts.
TNA Parliamentarian M.A. Sumanthiran also added that this issue was also due to the draconian PTA law he argues should be repealed in total.
We welcomed the announcement by the government today that #Tamil_Political_Prisoners would be released. We also raised the issue of repealing the #PTA and the release of persons arrested recently under this draconian law for making social media posts etc. https://t.co/VRNAnnNuQH
— TNAMedia (@TNAmediaoffice) June 22, 2021
Similarly, Tamil National People’s Front (TNPF) leader, Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam, welcomed the release of political prisoners but also called on the PTA to be repealed. “Unless you repeal the PTA and make sure no other law is brought in that even resembles the PTA, this systematic arbitrary injustice will continue.”
The continued failure by Sri Lankan authorities to issue justice speaks to the impunity for abuses enjoyed by state authorities and the lack of accountability on the island. The Sri Lankan government continued to use the PTA as a defence to detain many innocent Tamils across the North-East and has escalated its surveillance and clampdown on any criticism of the state's actions.