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Sunday, 10 February 2013

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Government Gazette

Govt promotes national harmony - Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva

Despite the attempts by the Opposition to make a big hue & cry on the floor of the House on the definition of the term 'terrorist' in the Convention on the Suppression of Terrorist Financing (Amendment) Bill, the Government on Friday gave an exact definition to the disputed term. The third reading of the Bill was passed in Parliament with amendments.

The Government categorically stated that the sole purpose of this piece of legislation was to suppress terrorist financing.

Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa had to suspend the debate on the Suppression of Terrorist Financing (Amendment) Bill on Wednesday for nearly one hour owing to disagreement by the Opposition that there was no clear definition of the term 'terrorist'. This led the Speaker to call for an urgent Party Leaders' meeting to discuss the issue.

When the debate was resumed Deputy External Affairs Minister Neomal Perera presented the Bill. UNP parliamentarian Ravi Karunanayake raising a point of order drew the attention of the House to the fact that the Bill had not provided a clear definition of the term 'terrorist'. Deputy Minister Perera said that the debate was on an Amendment to Act No. 25 of 2005 and the definition provided in the Act was still valid and applicable.

He said even the UN charter has not clearly defined the term 'terrorist'. The Bill had clearly defined the term terrorist as one engaged in terrorist activities, he said.

Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe too demanded to know the exact definition of the term and attempted to highlight that the Government could to fix the terrorist label on anyone if there was no proper definition. If the UN Charter has not clearly defined the term, 'terrorist', various other definitions could be made. The Opposition Leader was of the view that the term 'terrorist' should be properly defined in the Bill.

Chief Government Whip and Water Supply and Drainage Minister Dinesh Gunawardena who responded to the Opposition members said that he did not want to remind the House of what the UNP resorted to during the LTTE terror.

He said that the term had not been properly defined and therefore called upon the Chair to suspend sittings for 10 minutes so that the Party Leaders could meet and decide on the debate. When the House resumed, Deputy Speaker Chandima Weerakkody said that the Bill would be debated and the Parliamentary Consultative Committee would meet to ascertain the legal implications of the term and get the Bill for the third reading on Friday.

UNP MP Lakshman Kiriella stressed the point that the Bill had not made a clear definition of the term 'terrorist'. Under these circumstances, the Government can fix the terrorist label even on an innocent person. He said State terrorism is the biggest problem faced Sri Lanka.

UPFA Parliamentarian Shantha Bandara was very critical of the remarks by Kiriella on State terrorism. He drew the attention of the House how youth were unable to walk on the roads during the 1988-1989 terror period.

He said 139,000 youth were brutally massacred by then UNP Government. Today the UNP has forgotten these atrocities committed by them. MP Bandara alleged that it was the UNP which is responsible for creating State terrorism in Sri Lanka.

DNA Parliamentarian Vijitha Herath said that according to certain clauses in the Bill upholding political or religious ideologies can also be defined as a terrorist act. He told the House that this was not a clause endorsed at the Consultative Committee meeting. Leader of the House and Irrigation and Water Management Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva queried whether any attempts to divide the country based on a political ideology, should also be allowed. He also pointed out that there is no merit in the point raised by the MP.

Deputy Minister Neomal Perera said that the Bill was discussed at length at the Consultative Committee and the term 'terrorist' has been clearly defined. Therefore, the Government is not ready to make further amendments to the Bill at this juncture, he said.

The issue of Halal certification came into light due to a special statement made by Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe on Wednesday. He said that All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama (ACJU) organisation has no legal right to impose Halal certification on business organisations by force and demanded to know why the Government has permitted this organisation to do so.

He said that there was a query pertaining to Halal certification. He attempted to portray that Halal certification is an entirely voluntary matter. He made the point if anyone has forced Halal certification on business organizations, an inquiry should be held if a complaint is made to that effect. He queried why a private organization is assigned to perform this function which is the responsibility of the Sri Lanka Institute of Standards?

The Muslim leadership he met is in favour of resolving this issue in a manner acceptable to all parties. Therefore, he asked the Government as to why it allowed this question to boil over. Wickremesinghe said nowhere the All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama (ACJU) Act says that it is the authorized body to issue the Halal certificate."

Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva in reply to the Opposition Leader's statement, said that the Government would not let anyone to impose Halal certification on others and it was a personal choice of people to accept or reject it. The Minister also said neither Sri Lankan Government nor any Government body had recognised this Organisation. There is no Government approval needed for this since it is only voluntary to obtain Halal food certification. It is up to the consumers to accept or reject Halal food or Halal certification. The Government would not permit any person or body to impose Halal certification.

The Minister said the Government condemned the Opposition Leader's statement on the Halal certification and the All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama (ACJU). He said how the All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama (ACJU) played a vital role in last Geneva conference in defending the unitary status of the country as against the influences exerted by anti-Sri Lankan forces.

The Opposition Leader found fault with this organisation since it did not want to become the Opposition cat's paw. However, the Minister in his statement vehemently denied the allegation by the Opposition Leader that ten Muslim places of worship had been attacked in the recent past. He condemned this distortion of facts and challenged the Opposition Leader to tell this august assembly which mosque had been attacked and on what dates. President Mahinda Rajapaksa constantly meets religious and political leaders and seeks their advice to promote national and religious harmony. The President has instructed the political and the police to get rid of any movement that would cause the religious disharmony in the country.

Minister de Silva said the Opposition Leader's statement was just grumbling that the Government is either instigating religious disharmony or the Government was not acting against instigators. The Minister said that there was no other Government ever elected to power in this country such as the incumbent one which has done its utmsot to ensure inter-community harmony in the coutnry.

The President had highlighted in his address to the nation on Independence Day that he was committed to eliminate racial and religious disharmony.

 

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