March 9, 2010 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s outgoing parliament Tuesday 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.
Sri Lanka has faced criticism over the use of emergency laws, which were first imposed in 1983 to combat Tamil Tiger separatists who waged a 37-year battle until last May, when they were wiped out by the army.
The government argues that although Tamil guerrillas have been defeated, remnants were trying to make a comeback, a claim rejected by Sri Lanka’s opposition