Following the extension of emergency laws by another month on Friday, the Sri Lankan Parliament is all set to be dissolved in the next few days and the general election is scheduled to be held in the first half of April.
“A formal announcement on dissolution of Parliament constituted in 2004 would be made by President Mahinda Rajapaksa next week after his return from his first official trip on his re-election to Russia beginning today [Saturday],” Minister of Constitutional Affairs and National Integration, D.E.W. Gunasekara told The Hindu.
Asked about the fate of the emergency laws, Mr. Gunasekara said, “The President has the discretion to extend them through an executive order which needs to be ratified within a month by the new Parliament. It is entirely up to the President to make a determination on whether to go for an executive order to keep alive the emergency laws or let them lapse and wait for the new Parliament to take the necessary action.”
Under the Constitution, emergency laws could be passed only by Parliament and they are valid only for one month. They were re-imposed after the assassination of the then Foreign Minister, Lakshman Kadirgamar, by suspected LTTE cadres in the first half of August 2005. Since then. the emergency laws and regulations have been extended by Parliament on a monthly basis.
Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayake, moving the motion seeking Parliament’s approval to extend the state of emergency, told the members that it was necessary as the security forces were still engaged in “operational activities” to prevent the re-emergence of terrorist and secessionist forces. After the military defeat of the LTTE in May, the government and the opposition have differed on the merits of continuation of emergency laws.
The former Army Chief and the combined opposition nominee in the just-concluded presidential election, General (retired) Sarath Fonseka, had agreed during the campaign to consider the demand of most of the opposition parties to repeal the laws.
The 225-member Parliament, as it emerged after the 2004 election and as it stands today, bears no resemblance. Most of the key Ministerial positions held in the Rajapaksa government are from the ranks of the main opposition party the United National Party (UNP). The Foreign Affairs, Tourism, Foreign Investment, Foreign Employment and Power are all filled up with candidates who chose to defect to the ruling combine.
With an unassailable lead of nearly 18 per cent in the election, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) headed by Mr. Rajapaksa and the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) that he leads has a clear edge over the divided and battered opposition