TNA wants new 'hate speech' legislation withdrawn | Daily News

TNA wants new 'hate speech' legislation withdrawn

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) issuing a press statement yesterday, urged the government to withdraw the Penal Code (Amendment) Bill placed on the Order Paper of Parliament.

The communique stated that the TNA strongly opposes the Penal Code (Amendment) Bill on the grounds that it is inconsistent with Article 14(1)(a) of the Constitution, which guarantees to every citizen the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression including publication.

The Bill was placed on the Order Paper by Justice Minister Dr. Wijayadasa Rajapakshe on December 11, 2015.

The statement added: "The TNA is deeply concerned about the proposed Bill. The Bill seeks to introduce a new provision (Section 291C) to the Penal Code, No. 11 of 1887. A further Bill seeking to amend the Criminal Procedure Code Act, No. 15 of 1979 was also placed on the Order Paper.

"We observe that the proposed Section 291C is nearly identical to Section 2(1)(h) of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act No. 48 of 1979 (PTA). The previous government used this very provision to target persons from the Tamil and Muslim communities and to deprive them of their freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under Article 14(1)(a) of the Constitution."

It also observed that the government's move to amend Section 291C of the Penal Code directly contravenes its commitment made at the previous UNHRC session 'to review and repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Act, and to replace it with anti-terrorism legislation in accordance with contemporary international best practices'.

"We note that Sri Lanka is already compliant with international standards with respect to hate speech. Section 3(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Act, No. 56 of 2007 provides: 'No person shall propagate war or advocate national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.' Section 3(1) of the ICCPR Act reproduces Article 20 of the ICCPR, and is therefore compliant with international standards. The High Court is vested with jurisdiction to try offenders under this Act. We also recall that the Sri Lankan Supreme Court, in its Advisory Opinion in S.C. Reference No. 1 of 2008, referred to Section 3 of the ICCPR Act in the context of 'legislative compliance' with Article 20 of ICCPR. Therefore, there is absolutely no need to introduce new legislation on hate speech," the communique stated. 

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