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Sri Lanka's Justice Minister, Batty Weerakoon
explains the measures
 real 28k

Thursday, 5 July, 2001, 14:15 GMT 15:15 UK
Sri Lanka invokes terror laws
Opposition demo
The opposition has been pushing for a confidence vote
The Sri Lankan Government has invoked tough anti-terrorism laws in order to avoid having to ask parliament to extend the country's legal state of emergency.

The emergency, which had to be renewed every month, was allowed to lapse on Thursday in case it failed to win parliamentary approval.

President Chandrika Kumaratunga's ruling coalition lost its majority last month with the defection of a key Muslim party.

The government has now used the the Prevention of Terrorism Act and the Public Security Ordinance to claim emergency-style powers against Tamil rebels fighting in the north and east of the country.

Bypassing parliament

A government statement said that all areas of entire country had been declared "security areas".

Rauf Hakeem
Rauf Hakeem: Pulled out of coalition
The effect is to allow the continued deployment of troops throughout the island.

The government has also declared public utilities as essential services, making strikes in these sectors illegal.

Unlike the emergency regulations, the Prevention of Terrorism Act does not need to be renewed every month in parliament.

Majority lost

The government lost its majority when the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) leader Rauf Hakeem said all 11 of his MPs would cross over to the opposition.

The move came after Mr Hakeem was suddenly sacked from the cabinet, where he was Minister of Trade and Shipping.

Since then, the opposition has been pushing for a vote of confidence.

Sri Lanka has been under almost continuous emergency rule since ethnic conflict erupted in 1983.

The emergency laws have also been used against anti-government Sinhalese groups as well as trade unions and the press.

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See also:

22 Jun 01 | South Asia
Confidence vote looms in Sri Lanka
16 May 01 | South Asia
Muslims demand Sri Lanka talks role
13 Oct 00 | South Asia
New government for Sri Lanka
10 Oct 00 | South Asia
Violence mars Sri Lanka poll
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