Emergency Regulations Once Again

by NESOHR, February 25, 2005

The Northeast Secretariat on Human Rights (NESOHR) views with serious concern recently declared Emergency Regulations under the Public Security Ordinance.  It is Unpardonable in any (so called) democracy that whatever Proclamations, orders and regulations made by the Government are not available even to well known Civil Rights Movements and Libraries on time and they are not available at all even to the Magistrates and Judges for months resulting in the public being uncertain of their rights and obligations and the Judges, especially in the outstations, being left in the dark and unable to administer Justice properly.

The First declaration of Emergency after the ‘Tsunami,’ made on the 4th day of January, 2005 (Gazette Notification No: 1374/8) relating to fourteen affected districts, lapsed on January 18th by operation of Constitutional provisions as no approval was obtained for same from the Parliament within fourteen days. 

The second proclamation declaring a State of Emergency, which was gazetted on 3rd February, 2005, was approved on 11th of February by the Parliament and therefore the Emergency existed only between January 4th and 18th and now exists from February 11th to March 11th.  During the period when the Emergency Regulations were actually not in force at least two District Secretaries (Galle and Matara) and a Military Spokesperson have stated that they were under the impression that the Emergency Regulations were applicable and acted so.

The wide-ranging Emergency Regulations said to have been gazetted on February 3rd 2005 are draconian in nature and far excessive of the need of the hour.  Many of its provisions curtail the right of citizens to challenge violations of their fundamental rights or arbitrary Government action in the court, as it could be done only with the written consent of the Attorney General.  The authority given to certain officials to "remove any person for the purpose of questioning detained under the emergency regulations to any place of detention or custody and keep him in the temporary custody of such officer for a period not exceeding seven days at a time" has no justification at all as there is no protection or guarantee granted to a detainee in such situation.  The Regulations provide for limitations on fundamental rights related to the restriction on legal rights such as expanded powers of search and arrest, including arrest without warrant and the suspension of certain rules of evidence.  The law also seriously limits land and property rights.

In the context of the views of the Human Rights Committee under the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in communication number 1033/2001:SriLanka:23.08.2004,CCPR/C/81/D/1033/2001, in the matter of Nallaratnam Singarasa, parts of these regulations may be in violation of article 2 of the ICCPR. 

This applies equally to the other Draconian Law, Prevention of Terrorism Act No:48 of 1979. (PTA)

NESOHR wishes to put on record that, in the wake of past experience, the people of Northeast of the Island have valid fear that these regulations may be applied against them arbitrarily to deny their personal liberties and property rights.  These Regulations should not be allowed to continue and those who speak against it in the Parliament, but do not vote against it, are equally to be blamed as the Government which promulgated it.

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Posted February 26, 2005