On 25th August, President Mahinda Rajapaksa making a special statement before the Parliament stated that the emergency that would expire on August 30 will not be extended again.
Notwithstanding any rational justification the Government executed to continue emergency for more than two years since the end of the war. Once a month, a statement was made, in Parliament, by an uncomfortable Prime Minister in order to extend the state of emergency and to validate the Gazette notification, within the stipulated ten days, issued by the President. Once he was subject to humiliation by the media when he stated that the LTTE members were being trained in South India, while making his usual monthly statement.
However civil organizations and political parties including the JVP pressurised the Government to do away with the emergency as it was continuously utilizing the same to suppress the media and opposition activities. Meanwhile political parties including the JVP, through many demonstrations, urged the Government to repeal the emergency. Now the President has made a statement in Parliament that the emergency will not be extended again. In that aspect repealing of emergency is a victory for the people.
Indian Foreign Minister S M Krishna had made a statement in the Lok Sabha recently that Sri Lanka should repeal the emergency law. Meanwhile the first news item with regard to the statement to be made by the Sri Lankan President in Parliament was published in the website of the ‘Hindu’ newspaper. It is ironic how it was known to India prior to the local media. Similarly the President should have been vigilant to repeal the emergency in Sri Lanka regardless of influence by India, US or the UN Secretary General. If this materialized,it could have been considered a decision taken by Sri Lanka itself regardless of foreign influence.
On the other hand, nobody should believe that there is authentic democracy within the country. The Government is still implementing the Prevention of Terrorism Act. Under the PTA the Police are empowered to remand a suspect for 18 months without him/her being produced before a court of law. Consequently many have been detained for 15-20 years inside prison without a case being filed. Since a statement presented in Court, by the Police, is accepted as an accurate statement made by the suspect, the entire verdict given to the suspect could depend on the influence of the Police. When such an oppressive Act like the PTA is effective, hoping for democracy is challenging.
Attention should be drawn to a statement made by the President in Parliament. He said that since law and order has been legitimately established within the country emergency law is no longer required. Although repealing of the emergency law is something worthy by the people the President’s explanations are problematic and cynical, because the Rajapaksa Government has failed to sanction law and order. When there are people, who were sentenced to death, being released by the Attorney General on the Government’s request, when substandard medicine, cement and petrol were imported and the culprits are moving freely, when state land is sold without adhering to the law, when the Local Authorities are taken over by force, when lands are grabbed by force from settlers in Colombo and the East coast by chasing the owners away—it is reasonable that the people are taking law into their hands. It is apparent that this behaviour of the people would have had an impact on the Government.
In these circumstances, it is uncertain that true democracy will be activated in the country merely due to the repealing of emergency. Many steps have to be taken by the Government to accomplish this mission. The Government is not successful in maintaining the authority of law and order. Such an attitude cannot be expected when the law is utilized by the Government as a ball to attack as and when necessary. Because the Government has already gone too far that it cannot be reversed.