« Understanding a State of Emergency: March 2018 » by Centre for Policy Alternatives

Sri Lanka’s last state of emergency lasted for 28 years, and was terminated in August 2011, having continuously been extended by governments since it was first declared in 1983. On March 6th 2018, President Maithripala Sirisena declared a state of emergency in order to address and contain the violence unfolding in the Kandy district, where violent attacks on the Muslim community saw widespread property damage and two deaths. When it was gazetted, it was intended to last for ten days. However statements by the Presidential Secretary and the Prime Minister on its extension have raised concern.

A new brief provides comprehensive answers to the following questions.

What is meant by a ‘State of Emergency’?
What is the procedure for the declaration of emergency?
Was this procedure followed in March 2018?
What are the legal effects of a state of emergency?
To what extent are citizens’ rights curtailed in this period?
How does the Sri Lankan legal framework for states of emergency align with international standards?
What concerns are raised by the past experience of states of emergency?

This was prepared by CPA Research Fellow Dr. Asanga Welikala. He has previously authored A State of Permanent Crisis: Constitutional Government, Fundamental Rights and States of Emergency in Sri Lanka, States of Emergency: Issues for Constitutional Design and The state of Emergency in Peacetime.

Click here to access the full brief.


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