The International Network for Sri Lanka’s Democracy (INSD) vehemently condemns the action of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on 30 August 2021 to declare a state of emergency in Sri Lanka when there is clearly no reason to do so. What is worse is that this has been done stealthily. A statement made by the Presidential Media Division only talked about emergency regulations being formulated to ensure essential food supplies. But what has been done is not a declaration of “food emergency” as described in some media but a declaration of a state of public emergency under the Public Security Ordinance.
Very soon, we could expect the hugely unpopular Rajapaksa regime to use its newly acquired emergency powers to stifle the democratic right of protest
Part II of the Public Security Ordinance has been brought into operation, thus giving the President the power to make regulations having the legal effect of over-riding, amending or suspending the operation of the provisions of any law, except the provisions of the Constitution. The President can now bypass Parliament and make regulations having the force of law from the Presidential Secretariat. His loyal two-thirds majority will approve the Proclamation of a state of emergency every month. There will neither be a Parliamentary debate on the merits nor the opportunity for the Supreme Court to review the constitutionality of regulations before they become law.
The Rajapakse regime had almost 18 months since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic to pass the necessary legislation but did not do so. It can do so even now. If measures are needed urgently, an urgent Bill can be brought at any time as urgent Bills are permitted in the interest of national security or for the purpose of any matter relating to disaster management.
It is clear that the Government, having failed miserably to contain the pandemic and to ensure a supply of essential goods, faces a situation for which it is solely responsible but opts to declare a state of public emergency in order to rule by emergency regulations bypassing Parliament and scrutiny by the Supreme Court.
Very soon, we could expect the hugely unpopular Rajapaksa regime to use its newly acquired emergency powers to stifle the democratic right of protest. The International Network for Sri Lanka’s Democracy calls upon all democracy-loving Sri Lankans, irrespective of their political views, to call for the withdrawal of the declaration of a state of emergency and demand that the ordinary, transparent legislative procedure be adhered to in making laws that are needed to deal with the present situation.
On behalf of INSD
Stuttgart, Germany 02//08/2021