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In a Surprise Move, Sri Lankan President Extends Emergency by Another Month

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena invoked the Public Security Act, citing 'public emergency', extending the emergency due to lapse by June 22.


Updated:June 22, 2019, 1:16 PM IST
In a Surprise Move, Sri Lankan President Extends Emergency by Another Month
File photo of Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena (AP/PTI)

Colombo: A state of emergency was extended by Sri Lanka's President Maithripala Sirisena on Saturday, going back on his pledge to relax the tough laws introduced after the Easter Sunday attacks that killed 258 people.

President Sirisena said in a decree that he believed there was a "public emergency" in the country, and he was invoking provisions of the Public Security Act extending the state of emergency.

The tough laws, granting sweeping powers to police and security forces to arrest and detain suspects, were due to expire on Saturday. Just over 100 people, including 10 women, are currently in custody in connection with April's Easter Sunday suicide attacks on three churches and three luxury hotels in Colombo.

In late May, Sirisena told diplomats, from Australia, Canada, Japan, the US and European states, the security situation was "99 per cent back to normal" and he would allow the emergency laws to lapse by June 22. He assured diplomats that security forces had either detained or killed all those directly involved in the attacks, blamed on a local jihadi group and claimed by the Islamic State group.

There was no immediate word from the government why Sirisena changed his mind, but security remains tight in the capital. The emergency can be declared for a month at a time, and parliament must ratify it within 10 days.

The continuation of the emergency came as police announced criminal investigations against several top officers, including the Inspector-General, for negligence and lapses ahead of the bombings.

Sirisena himself has been criticised for failing to act on precise Indian intelligence that jihadists were about to hit Christian churches and other targets in Sri Lanka. A parliamentary public inquiry has been told that Sirisena, who is also the minister of defence and law and order, failed to follow proper national security protocols.

The mainly Buddhist nation of 21 million people was about to mark a decade since ending a 37-year-long Tamil separatist war when the Islamic extremists struck.

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