The enactment process of Sri Lanka’s controversial Online Safety Act (OSA) has raised significant concerns regarding the principles of law-making and its potential impact on constitutional democracy, as expressed by the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA). The CPA is urging the government to replace the OSA with a law that effectively addresses concerns related to online safety.
The CPA asserts that the drafting of the OSA was carried out in secrecy, and the hurried manner of its passage raises doubts about the government’s intentions in implementing a law with substantial implications for fundamental rights and the rule of law in Sri Lanka. The organization had previously commented on the substance and process of the Bill, challenging its constitutionality.
Expressing deep concern, the CPA highlights issues related to committee stage amendments on January 24, 2024. The Supreme Court had mandated 31 amendments for the Bill’s passage with a simple majority in Parliament, leading to questions about compliance with Article 78(3) of the Constitution. The CPA notes that substantial alterations proposed during the committee stage required the Bill’s withdrawal and re-gazetting, but the government proceeded without adopting the mandatory changes mandated by the Supreme Court.
Specifically, the CPA points out instances where the Supreme Court’s directives were not incorporated into the final version of the OSA, such as ensuring confidentiality in investigations and addressing vague terminology. The government’s rush to enact the OSA and its apparent disregard for the Supreme Court’s determination are seen as leading to a constitutional crisis and raising concerns about the law’s legality.
In light of these issues and previous concerns raised by the CPA, the organization calls on the government to review both the process and substance of the OSA. The CPA urges the immediate repeal of the OSA and the introduction of a law that genuinely addresses online safety concerns. Additionally, the organization emphasizes the importance of a transparent and inclusive law-making process, citing positive examples from the enactment of other legislation as crucial for Sri Lanka’s ongoing recovery and reform efforts