Prevention of Terrorism Act (Sri Lanka)

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The Prevention of Terrorism Act of 1978 is a law in Sri Lanka. It provides the police with broad powers to search, arrest, and detain suspects. It was first enacted as a temporary law in 1979 under J. R. Jayewardene presidency, then made permanent in 1982.[1]

Elements of the Act[edit]

Under the PTA of Sri Lanka,a person can be detained for periods up to 18 months (renewable by order every three months) if the Minister has reason to believe or suspect that any person is connected with or concerned in any unlawful activity. Unlawful activity includes even pasting posters on walls, and is punishable with death.[2]

Offences not known to ordinary laws of the country were also introduced. For example, if a person knows the whereabouts of terrorist (terrorist not defined in the Act.) and if such person fails to inform the Police he commits an offence punishable with a minimum 5-year jail term. If the "terrorist" stays with any person for a night such person is guilty of harbouring, punishable with a maximum of twenty years' jail.[3]

Operation and treatment of Tamils[edit]

Although the Prevention of Terrorism Act refer to the whole of Sri Lanka, its application has been reserved for the Tamils and particularly the Tamil youth. Ever since its enactment in 1979, scores of Tamil civilians from students to humanitarian workers have been brutally oppressed and systematically tortured under the act, and many of them have also been killed.[2]

There has been ridiculous instances when Judges of Courts have ordered detenus were taken to remand prison, their names entered in Prison Registers and then the provisions of the PTA invoked and the detenus brought for torture to Army Camps. For the operation under this Act normally army camps were used for detention and they were notorious for their "torture cells". In one Army camp they had even built in rings and other implements for torture.[2]

To this day, the act continues to be in operation in the North and East by which the state continues to oppress the Tamil population in the country.[4][5]


  1. ^ Sanjana Hattotuwa (20089). "Terrorised Media". Index on Censorship: 40–44. Check date values in: |year= (help)
  2. ^ a b c "An Eyewitness Account of the Welikade Prison Massacre". Ilankai Sangam. Retrieved 19 July 2014.
  3. ^ "State Oppression". Eelam. Retrieved 19 July 2014.
  4. ^ "Sri Lanka arrest for missing son's campaigning mother". Channel 4. Retrieved 19 July 2014.
  5. ^ "Sri Lanka arrests Tamil woman who pressed case for disappeared rebel son". Reuters. Retrieved 19 July 2014.