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Sri Lanka: Emergency Laws Extended

(Mar. 12, 2010) On March 9, 2010, Sri Lanka's Parliament, which had been dissolved, met for a short session to approve a one-month extension for the nation's emergency laws. President Mahinda Rajapaksa had signed a proclamation to that effect on March 1. With three opposition parties voting against the extension, it passed on a 93-24 vote. (Muralidhar Reddy, Sri Lanka Reconvenes Parliament to Pass Emergency Vote, THE HINDU (Colombo), Mar. 9, 2010, available at

Speaking against the extension, a Member of Parliament from the opposition Janatha Vimukthi Perumana Party, Sunil Handunneththi, denounced the government for using the emergency regulations against democratic rights. He also argued that since the civil war in the country had ended more than eight months ago, there is no need to continue emergency regulations. Handunneththi claimed that no actions have been taken on complaints that government agents attacked opposition supporters and that eight new detention centers have been opened. (JVP Votes Against Emergency, LANKA TRUTH, Mar. 9, 2009, available at

The state of emergency was imposed in August 2005, following the assassination of then Foreign Minister Laksman Kardirgamar, which was attributed to the Tamil Tigers rebel group. The special regulations have been re-imposed monthly since that time; the Tamil Tigers were decisively beaten in military action in May 2009. (THE HINDU, supra.) Government officials have defended the extension, stating that “operational activities” were ongoing to prevent a resurgence of the rebellion and defeat terrorism. (Id.)

The emergency regulations have been criticized outside of Sri Lanka. One organization denouncing their impact is the International Crisis Group (ICG), which describes itself as an “independent, non-partisan, source of analysis and advice to governments, and intergovernmental bodies … on the prevention and resolution of deadly conflict.” (About Crisis Group, ICG website, Jan. 2010, available at The ICG states, “Sri Lanka has two sets of emergency laws – regulations issued under the Public Security Ordinance, No. 25 of 1947, and the 1979 Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) – which impose severe limits on courts' jurisdiction and authority to prevent abusive detention and torture.” (ICG, SRI LANKA'S JUDICIARY: POLITICISED COURTS, COMPROMISED RIGHTS, ASIA REPORT NO. 172 (June 30, 2009), ICG website, available at