Tough laws to back Lanka’s reconstruction

Agence France Presse

Colombo, January 16:

Sri Lanka is to arm itself with tough emergency laws before a major post-tsunami reconstruction effort backed by unprecedented international financial backing, officials said today. The laws proposed by President Chandrika Kumaratunga would give the government power to confiscate property and impose tough punishments for tsunami-related crimes, officials and local media reported. Sri Lanka declared a state of emergency on December 26 hours after mountains of water smashed into three-quarters of its coastline, killing nearly 31,000 people and leaving up to a million homeless.

This allowed the immediate relaxation of laws such as those covering procedures for burying bodies, but the precise form of the emergency depends on the laws that will now be introduced by the president. “The president brought the new regulations to deal with the reconstruction work. In some places we have to acquire land to prevent people from rebuilding too close to the beach,” an official close to the president said. “To speed up reconstruction, we need these new laws. There is across-the-board support for this. The president has kept the opposition informed about this and they too agree.”

Laws promulgated by the president under the state of emergency must be passed by parliament within 10 days. The support of the opposition is required to push them through.

Vast swathes of coastal land were pulverised by the Indian Ocean tsunami. The government has proposed a 300-metre green zone along the coast where new buildings will not be permitted. Those living in the zone will be offered land further inland.

Two cops hurt


Police fired teargas to disperse a stone-throwing mob on Sunday during a rebel commemoration of a fallen leader. Two constables were injured when protestors pelted stones in the coastal district of Mannar. A group of people sympathetic to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam were trying to raise the Tiger flag in a government-held area, they said. “Police pulled down the flag and that led to clashes,” a military official said. — AFP