Fri, Dec 08, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Tamil lawmaker criticizes tough anti-terrorism act


A Tamil lawmaker said yesterday a decision by the Sri Lankan government to enforce a tough anti-terrorism law will strip the ethnic minority group of human rights.

"From now on there is no point of talking about human rights in Sri Lanka," said Nallathamby Sri Kantha, a Tamil member of Parliament, about the Prevention of Terrorism Act which was invoked by the Sri Lankan Cabinet on Wednesday.

The decision to invoke the act by the government followed a suspected suicide bombing by Tamil rebels that targeted the defense secretary last week. A renewal in fighting between Tamil Tiger separatists and the government has killed more than 3,500 people this year.

In the latest violence, military spokesman Brigadier Prasad Samarasinghe said artillery shells fired yesterday by Tamil Tiger rebels hit a school in northeastern Sri Lanka, wounding at least 10 students and one teacher. Rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan denied the charge.

By invoking the anti-terrorism law, the government gives state security forces sweeping powers to detain anyone without a warrant for six months, raid any home and even demolish properties considered a threat to national security.

"Even a minor offense can be treated as an act of terrorism," Kantha said.

The new regulations prohibit all symbols relating to terrorism, and any contact with terrorist groups. Violators can be imprisoned for up to 20 years.

"These are very vague terms and our fear is that the state security will make use of them to suppress the Tamil voice," Kantha said.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam -- who say they are fighting on behalf of the country's 3.1 million ethnic Tamil minority -- are banned in the US, Britain, Canada, the EU and India.

The Cabinet decided not to ban the Tigers during a meeting on Wednesday after rebel supporters warned it would effectively scupper a peace process derailed by the spike in violence.

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