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Last updated: 09 March, 2010 - Published 13:24 GMT
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State of emergency extended

Sri Lanka parliament
The dissolved parliament has been specially recalled to extend the regulations
The dissolved parliament in Sri Lanka has been specially recalled and has voted to extend by another month the country’s state of emergency.

The regualtions have been in force on and off since the 1980s and continuously since 2005.

The government says this is necessary to contain remnants of the Tamil Tiger rebels but the opposition says the sweeping emergency powers are draconian.

The government easily passed the emergency extension.

This is a monthly ritual but many parliamentarians are out campaigning for next month’s general election, and turnout was low.

Detaining without trial

The regulations allow for people to be detained for years without trial; they need only be brought to a magistrate after 90 days.

A minister, Rajitha Senaratne, told the BBC that despite the government’s war victory, there were still what he termed terrorist elements on the island and that until the country was more stable the emergency was needed.

JS Tissainayagam
Emergency regulations were used to jail journalist Tissainayagam for 20 years

He said the emergency was also used to speed up resettlement of refugees in the north because it cut down bureaucracy.

But the deputy leader of the biggest opposition party, Karu Jayasuriya, accused the government of using the emergency for – as he put it – the suppression of freedoms including that of the media.

He said it encouraged arbitrary arrest and added: “We don’t want to be a part of that.”

The European Union, in a recent critical report on Sri Lanka’s human rights situation, said its emergency regulations were incompatible with international rights laws and were unjustly shielding some police and other officials from prosecution.

Last year the regulations were used to sentence JS Tissainayagam, a magazine editor to 20 years’ jail, although he is now out on bail.

But the government says on an official website that the emergency shows it wishes “to take no risks” on people’s safety or the security of the coming election.

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