Tamil National Alliance (TNA) R Sampanthan called for the release of Tamil political prisoners, stating that their continued detention was impeding hopes of reconciliation and criticised Sri Lanka's draconian Prevntion of Terrorism Act.
“It is compulsory that the government states it’s position on this matter and takes action to release the said prisoners," said Mr Sampanthan in an adjournment motion in Sri Lanka's parliament. "Their continuance in custody causes immense harm and harassment to their families and impedes the process of reconciliation. The government is seen as being insensitive to the genuine grievances of these prisoners.”
Mr Sampanthan went on to criticise Sri Lanka’s Prevention of Terrorism Act, under which many of the Tamil prisoners are being held.
“Even the Sri Lankan Minister of Foreign Affairs described the Prevention of Terrorism Act as the much criticised and the much abused Act,” he told parliament. “He has said this in his Statement before the UN Human Rights Council. How can anyone be held in lawful custody under such a law? It is a law which you say is obnoxious, it has been criticised by everyone, not merely by people in this country, by the international community, and it is a law which has been abused.”
“How can anyone be held legally in custody under that law? How can anyone be charged under that law? How can anyone be convicted under that law? It is our submission that all persons taken into custody under the Prevention of Terrorism Act must be released because your Government concedes that the law is unjust, is obnoxious and is not a law that should remain on statute books in this country,” Mr Sampanthan added.
The TNA leader also noted that having been held for years without charge, many of the prisoners state they have been discriminated against. "They have thus been denied equal treatment under the law,” he said.