Under the infamous PTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act) enacted in 1979, the defense minister could detain anyone for 90 days on “suspicion of terrorist activities”. The Defense Minister can extend the detention up to 180 days. The PTA gives the police broad powers to arbitrarily arrest and detain anyone without charge.The use of torture to obtain confessions by the police in Sri Lanka is allowed to present these “confessions” as evidence in court.The government has the power under the PTA to ban any organization it deems “terrorist,” and it can confiscate the organization’s assets.
The PTA has been widely used to detain Tamil people, especially the youth, since the Colombo government began its ethnic war against the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in 1983.The arrest warrants against Mudalige, Siridhamma and Gunathilaka were issued four days after a massive police attack on a protest organized by the Inter-University Student Union on August 18.About 2,000 students participated in the protest, and their main demands were “Ranil-Rajapaksa go home, stop the repression”, “release the arrested activists” and “build public councils”.
Wickramasinghe, a long-time enforcer of International Monetary Fund (IMF) mandates, is moving forward with its measures.Like his predecessor, his goal is to shift the burden of Sri Lanka’s deep economic crisis onto the public. The IMF is commanding the destruction of tens of thousands of public sector jobs, the privatization of state-owned enterprises, tax hikes, brutal cuts to free education and health, and other dire social attacks.
Wickremesinghe is trying to establish an all-party government that will strengthen his hand to implement these measures and suppress the popular protest of the workers and the poor.