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National Peace Council Urges Government to Prioritize Consultation in Legislative Processes

In a press release issued today, the National Peace Council (NPC) expressed deep concern over the recent passage of the Online Safety Bill in the Sri Lankan Parliament. The NPC highlighted the irregularities in the parliamentary proceedings, emphasizing that the bill was approved without a vote during its third reading, despite the opposition’s call for one. Furthermore, allegations surfaced that several amendments mandated by the Supreme Court were not incorporated into the final version of the bill.

The National Peace Council called on the government to address these concerns raised by the opposition before the Online Safety Bill is signed into law by the Speaker of Parliament. The recent proroguing of the parliament by the president has provided an opportunity to rectify these issues and ensure that all amendments are properly included in the legislation.

Acknowledging Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena’s commitment to investigating the implementation of amendments in accordance with Supreme Court directives, the NPC stressed the importance of protecting the fundamental democratic right to free expression.

In the same context, the NPC directed attention to the Commission for Truth, Unity, and Reconciliation (CTUR) bill, which was gazetted on January 1, 2024. Expressing concern over the rushed legislative process, the NPC urged the government not to replicate the hasty approach observed during the passage of the Online Safety Bill and the Office for National Unity and Reconciliation (ONUR) bill on January 9 of the same year.

The NPC emphasized that the draft law for the CTUR had been prepared and gazetted even before the submission of the report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry, which aimed to investigate the findings of preceding Commissions and Committees headed by Justice A H M D Nawaz.

Highlighting the government’s urgency in pushing through the CTUR law without awaiting the Nawaz Commission’s report and with minimal consultation with opposition political parties and civil society, the NPC raised concerns about the motivation behind such haste. It suggested that the government might be seeking international support by producing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TURC) law, even if it lacks backing from ethnic and religious minorities.

Echoing the sentiments expressed during the passage of the Online Safety Bill, the NPC emphasized the need for consensus in the legislative process. It urged the government to engage in thorough discussions with the opposition and civil society before proceeding with the CTUR law, emphasizing the importance of obtaining their consensus rather than relying on a majority vote in parliament.

The National Peace Council underscored the crucial role of dialogue and collaboration in building a robust national reconciliation process, emphasizing that the proposed CTUR law should be founded on the consensus of all stakeholders involved.

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