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Updated: March 2, 2010 19:26 IST

Rajapaksa extends emergency laws till April

B. Muralidhar Reddy
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Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa Photo: AP
AP Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa Photo: AP

Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa has extended the emergency laws by another month invoking powers conferred on him under the executive presidency. The validity of the emergency regulations extended by the Parliament which was dissolved on February 10, in the run up to the general election scheduled on April 8, expired on the mid-night of March 1.

Under the Constitution of Sri Lanka, emergency laws could be passed only by the Parliament and they are valid for a period of one month only. As a consequence, the latest extension of the emergency laws would have to be endorsed by Parliament within a period of one month.

It is immediately not clear as to how the government intends to go about securing the backing of the Parliament as the new Parliament is not expected to be constituted before the second week of April. One view is that the members of the dissolved Parliament could meet for a short period for the sole purpose of validating the presidential order on emergency laws.

However, another view is that it is not possible to re-convene a dissolved Parliament. “It would be legally not feasible to summon a dissolved Parliament. Even hypothetically it is possible, how could the government expect to be present in the national capital at a juncture when they would in the thick of election campaign?” asked a political party leader.

Under the Constitution of Sri Lanka, emergency laws could be passed only by the Parliament and they are valid only for a period of one month. Emergency laws in Sri Lanka were re-imposed after the assassination of the then Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar by suspected cadres of the LTTE in the first half of August 2005. Since then the emergency laws and regulations have been extended by the Parliament on a monthly basis. While moving the motion seeking the Parliament’s approval to extend the state of emergency in the just dissolved house, Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayake had told the members that it was necessary as the security forces are still engaged in ‘operational activities’ to prevent the re-emergence of terrorist and secessionist forces.

After the military defeat of the LTTE in May last year, the government and the opposition have differed on the merits of continuation of emergency laws. Retired General Sarath Fonseka, who was defeated by a huge margin, in the course of his election campaign had agreed to consider the demand of most of the opposition parties to repeal the emergency laws. In his speech while moving the motion for extension of the emergency laws, the Sri Lanka Prime Minister maintained that troops still find hauls of weapons during their search operations even months after the decimation of the LTTE. He told the House that it was beyond doubt and everyone would agree that the state of emergency had been very helpful in the recent past in defeating terrorism. Citing Sir Winston Churchill, he said, “Sometime it is not enough to do our best, we must do what is required.”

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