An End to EmergencyCan we do without it?

The State of Emergency has plagued the country for over twenty eight years allowing for the government to suspend some of the public’s general freedoms. A Minister who wished to remain anonymous told the Daily Mirror that the state of emergency would remain for the rest of this month. However, he was hopeful that after the scheduled debate in Parliament tomorrow, Emergency would “most likely not be extended to the next month.”

In April Prime Minister D. M. Jayaratne for the first time spoke about a scaling down of the emergency regulations, on behalf of the Government in consultation with the judiciary. The state of emergency was re-imposed in Parliament in August 2005 following the assassination of then Foreign Affairs Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar. Since then, it has been extended every month through a majority vote in the House.

After the end of the war in May, 2009, there were requests by international civil and governmental organizations asking the government to scale down these regulations.  Accordingly, in May last year, the government rescinded the power (under the state of emergency) to impose curfews in the country. Also, the government removed the provisions that related to propaganda activities. The decision to relax the regulations further this year follows the UN Advisory Panel’s report which recommended that the state of emergency and the Prevention of Terrorism Act be scrapped. However the government maintained that it was necessary to retain the remainder of the Emergency provisions to legally deal with those involved in terrorist activities.

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) opposed the extension of the emergency right from the beginning. The opposition parties such as the JVP supported it during the time of the war. However, the UNP and the JVP began voting against its extension months after the end of the conflict.

After months of debate, the question is, are we at the End of Emergency? And if so, can we do without it?

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