Lifting emergency a significant move, studying new anti terror laws - US

Saturday, 3 September 2011 00:39 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

The United States said Thursday that it is studying the implications of the new legislation that came into effect in Sri Lanka to handle the terrorism related issues as the emergency regulations existed for three decades in the country lapsed at the end of last month.

The US, welcomed the Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s proposal to end the emergency rule in the country as a “significant step towards normalising life for the people of Sri Lanka.”

Sri Lanka’s Attorney General Mohan Peiris said on Wednesday (31 August) that President Rajapaksa is to declare four regulations under section 27 of Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) to handle matters related to the terrorist organisation Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the absence of the emergency law.

The new laws cover the continuous proscription of the terror outfit and its front organisation Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO), detention of the LTTE suspects and rehabilitation of the LTTE cadres who surrendered.

Addressing the media at the daily press briefing on Thursday, the State Department Deputy Spokesperson Mark Toner pointed out that the Sri Lankan government has made significant progress towards rehabilitation of former combatants.

“We also acknowledge that the Government of Sri Lanka has made progress in rehabilitating and releasing over 8,000 of the more than 11,000 former LTTE combatants that were taken prisoner at the end of the conflict,” he said.

The spokesperson urged the Sri Lankan government to charge or release those prisoners who are still held in custody.

Responding to a media query that expressed concerns on the new legislation, the spokesperson said he is aware of some of those concerns.

“I think we’re still looking at the legislation going forward and studying its implications,” Toner said.

When questioned about media reports that had said the conditions were not conducive for the Tamil civilians inside the country, the spokesperson said he is not aware of any details of such reports but the United States have called on the Government of Sri Lanka to look into allegations of human rights abuses in the past.

“We’ve been clear in the past. We’ve said that we believe the Government of Sri Lanka should take steps to address some of these concerns,” he said.

A visit by the US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert O. Blake to Sri Lanka to address those concerns had to be postponed due to the hurricane Irene last week.

Blake was scheduled to travel to Sri Lanka on 29 August for a three-day official visit. A rescheduled date for his visit to Colombo has not been announced yet.

During his stay he was expected to meet Sri Lankan government officials, civil society representatives, university students and political leaders.