Sri Lanka to Amend Penal Code to Stop Hate Speech

ParlimentSri Lanka’s new government has decided to amend the country’s Penal Code to include stringent provisions against those who engage in hate speech to disrupt communal harmony.

Cabinet spokesman Rajitha Senaratne yesterday said that the Penal Code will be amended to include provisions in a bid to prevent and stop hate speech.

The Cabinet has approved a proposal to ask the legal draftsman to come up with necessary legislation.

“In the recent past there have been speeches which promoted religious extremism,” Senaratne said, apparently referring to the deadly anti-Muslim riots in June last year.

Four people were killed in the riots in two mainly Muslim coastal southern resorts popular with international tourists, when a Buddhist mob went on rampage and torched several shops and businesses owned by the minority community in Beruwala, Dharga Town and Aluthgama.

The violence was blamed on the hardline Buddhist Force (BBS), which had, then, denied its involvement in the riots.

The riots were the latest in a series of religious clashes to hit the country following unrest in January last year, when Buddhist mobs attacked a mosque in Colombo.

Sri Lanka’s ethnic minority groups have been complaining of harassment through hate speeches by various extremist organisations.

Senaratne said the government’s Lesson Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) had recommended measures to stop hate speech and their publication in order to achieve peace and harmony.

“This task will also be done within the new government’s 100 days programme and we hope to bring the proposal to the Parliament as soon as possible,” said Senaratne.

The LLRC had pointed out that armed struggles and problems that led to such issues have contributed to religious tensions in the country.

The Penal Code, when amended by the legal draftsman, will be presented in parliament for approval and enactment.(OutLook)

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