COLOMBO : Leader of Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, MP Rauff Hakeem meeting the visiting six-member European Union (EU) monitoring team to review the Generalised Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) at Darusalaam, on Tuesday (28), expressed his concerns over continuous human rights violations against minority Muslims and that the government is using the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) to hunt down opposition parties and those who fight for democracy and human rights.
MP Hakeem said he and his Party Secretary, Nizam Kariapper, highlighted the worst kinds of human rights violations are occurring in the country in recent times.
The EU delegation, comprising Nikolaos Zaimis, Senior Adviser on Trade and Sustainable Development; Ionnis Giogkarakis-Argyropoulos, Head of Division South Asia, European External Action Service (EEAS); Guido Dolara, Coordinator GSP Trade Preferences; Lluis Prats – Head of Unit, Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, European Commission; and Monika Bylaite, Desk Officer for Sri Lanka and the Maldives, EEAS, met MP Hakeem and PC Kariapper.
The EU delegation wanted to know the MP’s views on the current situation in the country, and the MP responded that the PTA has been openly used as a tool for political victimization of certain people and communities.
The MP recalled the detention of lawyer and activist Hejaaz Hizbullah. “He is detained for nearly a year and a half. He is the only lawyer who has been detained under the PTA purposely.” The MP reiterated to the EU delegation that the lawyer’s unwarranted detention has been mentioned in the EU Parliament’s resolution that was adopted in June 2021.
The MP said that the lawyer could be released on bail and the case could continue in court, but the government has determined to keep him under the PTA and use his detention for its political goals.
Similarly, several young people, the elderly and women have been detained without any charges, MP Hakeem said.
He also highlighted the controversy over Muslim religious matters, especially the amendments to be made to the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act (MMDA) and said it was fully resolved by the community. Nevertheless, beyond that, the government has been overstepping and intervening in these affairs. “We made it very clear that this government needs to make some changes in its efforts to intervene without the need for a separate legal process for Muslims,” he added.
“We also should discuss the matter with the Minister of Justice. We have also made it very clear to the EU that these should not be allowed to become an issue in which the government unnecessarily deprives minorities of their rights. At the same time, we have also told the EU delegation that we are keen on and agree with all the provisions for the full granting of Muslim women’s rights. “
In addition, to the Muslim-related issues, the MP has stressed that the current government’s emergency legislation should be lifted. He noted that the emergency law has been used to curtail freedom of expression, demonstrations, and anti-government activities in the country.
The SLMC Leader said the government has not taken measures to curb the actions of the Buddhist monks who are spreading hate speech when the people are facing a crisis situation in the country.
“Our intention is not to halt the GSP Plus benefits for Sri Lanka, but we know it depends on the way the government extends its support to contain the ongoing human rights abuses in the country. We have expressed that we are not satisfied with the government and the government is a failure,” he added.
“It’s not satisfactory as the Opposition and those who are concerned about human rights and therefore we have urged the EU to take the necessary steps to get the Government on the right track by taking alternative measures.
He also said the government should explicitly show that it is refraining from backing the Buddhist monks. “Besides, there should be punishment for inciting and acting on hate speech, but we don’t want to see that happen. It is the pro-government media that gives the opportunity for them to use the platform and the government should take measures to stop them.”
At the same time, these monks who are speaking out on behalf of state intelligence and the upper echelons of government, it is very clear that there is a strong suspicion that the government is behind this move. The government needs to act with transparency, he said.
The MP also condemned the series of gazette notifications that have been released by the government. It has no meaning as it does not control the prices of commodities. “The government is a failure,” he noted.
Disclaimer: SLMC Leader Rauff Hakeem tells EU delegation PTA is used as a tool for political victimisation - Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Latheefarook.com point-of-view