Organised Crime Bill held back for deeper public scrutiny

by Dilanthi Jayamanne

The Government Proposed Organised Crime Bill has been held back to provide more scrutiny by civil society organisations and the public.

Spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said yesterday that the bill was being held back for the moment in accordance with democratic values of the state to provide for more public opinion.

"We have to listen to the views of the people and organisations that represent them," he said pointing out that civil organisations had not been given enough time to view the bill and put forward their recommendations and amendments to it.

The spokesman denied that the bill had been held back because of the Presidentís objections to it claiming that the bill was still at the level of discussion following its presentation in Parliament last month. It has only been held back temporarily," he pointed out.

However, President Chandrika Kumaratunga strongly objected to the Organised Crime Bill last Sunday stating that the government should seek the views of civil society groups. Inviting civil society groups to make further representations the President said that a democratic legal system could not tolerate a situation which encouraged unsafe convictions in the criminal justice process.

"Normally the more serious the possible outcome, the more stringent are the safeguards for the accused. The proposed legislation seeks to significantly dilute due procedural process and the rights of the accused to a fair trial".

The President invited civil society groups that are active in the field of human rights and civil liberties to make their representations while calling upon other groups to contribute an informed opinion to a discussion to ascertain their views on the matter.