(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

Lifting of emergency cautiously welcomed, activists say

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa announces end of emergency state
Amantha Perera/IRIN

Rights activists welcomed the lifting of the state of emergency as a step toward normality, but remain sceptical.

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa announced on 25 August that the government would not seek an extension to the emergency law in place for most of the past three decades. "To carry forward the day-to-day activities in a democratic way, I propose there is no need for emergency regulations any more," Rajapaksa said. He added that there had been no terrorist acts reported since the island's 26-year civil war ended in May 2009.

"The emergency regulations limited a lot of political freedoms, and the lifting is an indication that the government is at least interested, at this late hour, [in restoring] some of these liberties," Jehan Perera, executive director of the local National Peace Council, told IRIN.

However, Ruki Fernando, head of the human rights in conflict programme at the Law and Society Trust, warned of other laws restricting civil liberties. "This is just a cosmetic change as long as the Prevention of Terrorism Act is in place, which is as draconian as the emergency," he said.

Perera agreed that change depended on how the government implemented the Prevention of Terrorism Act of 1979. "As long as the military continues to play a major role in civilian affairs, especially in the north, these fears will remain," he said.


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