Opposition Leader Raises Alarms Over Online Safety Act Amidst Heated Parliamentary Exchange
February 09, Colombo (LNW): In a significant development yesterday opposition leader expressed reservations about the Online Safety Act, citing nine clauses that allegedly deviate from the Supreme Court’s directives.
Despite these apprehensions, Justice Minister Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapaksa stood firm, asserting that no aspect of the enacted Act is subject to alteration.
A fiery confrontation unfolded today in the Sri Lankan Parliament between Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa and Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena regarding the passage of the contentious Online Safety Bill. Critics argue that the bill infringes upon Supreme Court rulings and disregards judicial guidance.
Premadasa accused the government of neglecting the court’s recommendations on crucial clauses, such as those related to internet access revocation and contempt of court. He emphasized the court’s stress on due process and magisterial oversight, both of which he alleged are lacking in the current legislation.
The Speaker defended the process, stating that both sides must agree for a vote to occur. He denied personal involvement in the amendments, asserting that he only “mentioned names.”
Premadasa criticized the Speaker’s refusal to vote on numerous occasions, labeling it a dereliction of duty and a violation of the Constitution. He demanded a special party leaders meeting to address the opposition’s concerns.
Intervening, Minister of Justice Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe acknowledged “shortcomings” in the bill but downplayed their significance. He assured the chamber that the government is open to “necessary amendments” and underscored that the measures were not intended to shield the government or the president.
Premadasa seized on this admission, asserting that it affirmed the opposition’s concerns about the bill’s flaws. He highlighted that even the Justice Minister acknowledged deficiencies in the process.
Adding to the controversy, MP Weerasumana Weerasinghe raised concerns about the violation of parliamentary privileges, alleging that members were denied the opportunity to vote on the third reading of the bill.