Sri Lanka approves pre-poll emergency

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s outgoing parliament today approved the extension of a state of emergency until after next month’s legislative elections, giving sweeping powers to police and troops.

Parliament voted strongly to extend the laws enacted by President Mahinda Rajapakse earlier this month to deal with anti-government elements after the crushing of Tamil Tiger rebels almost a year ago.

“We are not going to use these emergency laws against the political opposition, but only to deal with the remnants of the Tigers,” Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake told parliament.

The president can extend the emergency for one month at a time, but this must be ratified by parliament within 10 days. Fresh parliamentary elections are due on April 8, before the expiry of the current extension of the emergency.

The emergency law allows the arrest and detention of suspects for long periods without trial. It also allows police and troops to carry out search operations without a warrant from a magistrate.

Fonseka ends hunger strike

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s defeated presidential candidate Sarath Fonseka ended a hunger strike after just one day when he was allowed to speak to his daughters, his party said on Tuesday. Fonseka has been held at a detention centre since his arrest on February 8, two weeks after losing elections to President Mahinda Rajapakse. The former army general began his fast Sunday but ended it on Monday night after being allowed to speak to his daughters in the United States, a spokesman for his party said. The government has yet to specify the charges Fonseka will face, but a military spokesman told reporters on Monday that investigators had finished gathering evidence.