‘Rid­ing the Wave’

Southasia - - Editor's mail -

Sri Lankan Pres­i­dent Mahinda Ra­japakse has re­cently lifted two-decade long State of Emer­gency that gave the govern­ment ex­tra­or­di­nary pow­ers to uti­lize the armed forces for main­tain­ing pub­lic se­cu­rity and to re­strict civil lib­er­ties in the coun­try. The govern­ment re­ceived ac­co­lades from its sup­port­ers for its demo­cratic ac­tion and even its crit­ics in the op­po­si­tion wel­comed the new de­vel­op­ment. How­ever, as things stand in Sri Lanka to­day, there is lit­tle hope that the lift­ing of the Emer­gency will change any­thing on the ground. The le­gal ba­sis for the de­mo­li­tion of the State of Emer­gency has been the ex­tra­or­di­nary power vested in the Pres­i­dency by the con­sti­tu­tion. The power to call out the armed forces to main­tain pub­lic or­der is vested in the Pres­i­dent. Also, the mil­i­tary is em­pow­ered to con­tinue to un­der­take their du­ties as it did un­der Emer­gency Reg­u­la­tions. The pres­i­den­tial power thus in­di­cates a strong cen­tral­iza­tion of power in the coun­try which if not checked can lead to a loss of faith in the ef­fi­cacy of other in-

sti­tu­tions by the peo­ple at large. This can lead to more volatile sec­tions of the pop­u­la­tion to take mat­ters into their own hands thereby de­fy­ing the very pur­pose of Sri Lanka lift­ing its State of Emer­gency and strug­gling to por­tray it­self as a peacelov­ing na­tion.

S.J. Fer­nan­dez, Colombo, Sri Lanka

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