Sri Lankan president relaxes emergency laws

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The Independent Online

The president announced plans to lift wartime emergency laws that have curbed civil and political liberties for nearly 30 years.

The country has been under intense international pressure to relax the draconian measures, two years after the government's victory in its bitter civil war against the separatist Tamil Tiger rebels.

The emergency laws, which parliament had extended every month, had allowed the government to detain suspects without trial, displace residents from their land and set up military checkpoints.

"Today I propose to this assembly the withdrawal of the emergency laws to enable the country to conduct its affairs through its normal laws and in a democratic manner," President Mahinda Rajapaksa told the legislature. "We no longer need emergency laws for our governance."

Authorities still can exercise similar powers under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. But legal experts say their is inferior to fundamental rights clauses of the constitution.