Feature Article

Colombo brings in new legislation to replace Emergency Regulations

[TamilNet, Thursday, 01 September 2011, 14:22 GMT]
Having hoodwinked the international community by announcing an imminent withdrawal of the three decade-long Emergency Regulations, Colombo has decided to introduce new set of laws with immediate effect to replace the draconian law that gives sweeping powers to SL Police and military forces to arrest and detain people without any charges indefinitely. Sri Lanka’s Justice Minister Rauf Hakeem has said that the new set of laws will be in place with the expiry of similar provisions under the island’s controversial emergency laws, which Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa proposed to lift by the end of August. Badly hoodwinked by the mere propaganda exercise by the genocidal Rajapaksa regime many members of the powerful international community, including the United States quickly hailed as “significant step” the move to do away with the emergency regulations.

The laws have been in place since 1971 except for a couple of very brief intervals and are renewed by parliament every month - even after SL government’s declaration of defeating the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) military in May 2009.

“We are planning to bring in new legislation to parliament as an urgent proposal to keep them in detention until they are charged”, Justice Minister Rauf Hakeem, who is also the leader of the Sri Lanka’s Muslim Congress (SLMC), has told the BBC Sinhala Service on Wednesday, adding that the new legislation would allow the government forces to keep suspects of hard core terrorism in detention indefinitely without any charges.

“The new bill for legislation will be in place in addition to the existing Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). This new law will restore detention powers. We expect the new draft bill to be approved by cabinet next week prior to be presented in parliament,” Minister Hakeem has been quoted as saying.

Indirectly conceding the fact that the government was in an urgent need to bring the new legislation into operation, SL Minister Hakeem said that there will be “an opportunity of forty eight hours to file any objections to Supreme Court against the new legislation”.

Amnesty International welcoming the lifting of the state of emergency called upon the Sri Lankan government to follow it up by removing the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), which allows arbitrary arrests, confiscation of property and life imprisonment for those involved in “terrorist activity”.

Political analysts say that the Rajapaksa government, coming under the pressure of the international community over the credible war-crime allegations during the final months of the war, has only changed the name of the draconian regulations while keeping the powers and purpose very much intact.

Meanwhile, the extreme Sinhala nationalist Marxist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), which once strongly supported the Rajapaksa government and its military campaign against the Tamils till its very end, has charged that the government had hoodwinked the masses in the guise of withdrawing the emergency regulations and that under the PTA the police and the military can still search houses without a warrant from court.

The JVP has also warned that the military and the police could continue to extract confessions from any individual under the PTA and detain him/her without any trial in a court of law for a long period.


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