Sri Lankan government wants to extend emergency rule

The Sri Lankan government today asked parliament to extend an emergency rule decree imposed after the assassination of the country’s foreign minister by suspected Tamil rebels, as European peace monitors held talks with guerrilla leaders.

The Sri Lankan government today asked parliament to extend an emergency rule decree imposed after the assassination of the country’s foreign minister by suspected Tamil rebels, as European peace monitors held talks with guerrilla leaders.

“There can be no room for murder, intimidation, extortion and child conscription and therefore we need to bring a strong legal framework in order to investigate these crimes,” National Security Minister Ratnasiri Wickremenayake told members while presenting the bill.

The main opposition United National Party has said it will support the government’s move to extend the emergency rule, which was imposed after Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar was killed last week.

The emergency laws give broad power to the military – which President Chandrika Kumaratunga controls – to make arrests, interrogate suspects and search houses at will. It also bans public gatherings, gives the president lawmaking powers and allows media censorship.

However, none of those actions, except for the searches and arrests, have been carried out since Friday when Kadirgamar was shot and killed. The emergency order has barely affected daily life for the vast majority of Sri Lankans, who have seen two decades of violence.

Meanwhile, senior European cease-fire monitor Hagrup Haukland met with the Tigers’ political chief, SP Thamilselvan. “He has a mandate to discuss the current situation,” said Vilja Kutvonen, a spokeswoman for the Norwegian-headed Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission.

A spate of violence that has killed dozens in recent months has raised fears Sri Lanka’s three-year truce is on the brink of collapse.

Haukland has played a pivotal role since Norway brokered the cease-fire in February 2002, ending the two-decade civil war that had killed nearly 65,000 people.

But subsequent peace talks broke down in April 2003 over rebel demands for greater autonomy in the country’s north and east.

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