Lankan opposition asks govt to lift curbs before local polls

Posted By: Pti
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Colombo, Jan 12 (PTI) Sri Lanka''s opposition todaydemanded that the government lift the emergency before localelections in March, saying there was no justification forcontinuing curbs, two years after the end of civil strife inthe country.

Daring President Mahinda Rajapaksa to win localelections without enforcing a state of emergency, theopposition said the government was afraid of testing the willof the people in a free atmosphere.

People''s Liberation Front, or JVP, Secretary GeneralTilvin Silva charged that the government was maintaining thedraconian emergency laws to use them in upcoming local councilelections.

The tough laws were enacted initially to deal withthe separatist Tamil rebels in 1978, but the sweeping powersare still maintained nearly two years after the governmentclaimed defeating the rebels in 2009.

Silva told reporters here that the government was alsoafraid of testing the will of the people in urban areas andwould take the cover of forthcoming cricket world cup to delaypolls.

More than 300 municipal, urban and village councilswill go to the polls in March for the first time since thearmy defeated Tamil Tiger rebels in May 2009 and declared anend to 37 years of ethnic conflict.

The JVP leader claimed the government is expected todelay voting in Colombo, Hambantota and Kandy in municipal andurban councils which are located near cricket venues.

He said the real reason was that the government wasafraid it may not do too well in urban areas where fixed wageearners are grappling with high living costs.

Opposition parties have complained that theiractivists have been arrested under emergency laws whileputting up anti-ruling party posters.

They said the emergency, which gives sweeping powersto police and troops to detain suspects for long periodswithout trial, should be lifted clearing the way for a freeand fair election.

"There is no justification for dragging on the stateof emergency nearly two years after the war has ended," Silvasaid. "Earlier, the government''s excuse was the war, butit is not there anymore."

The government argues that it needs the toughemergency laws to prevent ethnic Tamil separatists regrouping.

The US and EU nations and international rights groups haveurged Sri Lanka to ease the curbs.

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