Sri Lanka under fire for emergency rule

February 6, 2010 (AFP) – Sri Lanka faced criticism Saturday for extending a state of emergency giving sweeping powers to security forces to detain suspects ahead of parliamentary elections due by April. A private poll-monitoring body, the People’s Action for Free and Fair Elections, said continuation of emergency rule could undermine the vote slated to be held after last month’s presidential election, won by Mahinda Rajapakse.

“The use of emergency laws could seriously affect the campaign and there is no guarantee that the government will not use it against political opponents,” the group’s executive director, Rohana Hettiarachchi, said.

On Friday, Sri Lanka’s parliament voted heavily in favour of extending the state of emergency for one month despite international calls to revert to normal laws. The extension must be approved by parliament every month.

“The emergency is needed because enemies of the state are trying to regroup and unite,” Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake told parliament. Emergency rule allows suspects to be kept in custody for prolonged periods without trial.

Official sources said the national assembly could be dissolved next week, two months before its six-ye