Sri Lanka's President Cancels State of Emergency

From Associated Press

President Chandrika Kumaratunga today lifted the state of emergency she had announced two days earlier but was preparing a new measure to increase the authority of the armed forces to respond to threats, a government official said.

The official, who is in charge of printing government decrees, said Kumaratunga had canceled the emergency, which officials Thursday had said would last for 10 days.

Nevielle Nanayakkara said that the president's office had sent new executive orders to expand the powers of the armed forces to respond to threats to the country's law and order, but not to the extent allowed in a state of emergency.

The emergency would have given broad power to the military -- which Kumaratunga controls -- to make arrests, interrogate suspects and search houses at will. It also would have banned public gatherings, given the president lawmaking powers and allowed media censorship.

It was not immediately clear why Kumaratunga lifted the emergency, but it coincided with the return today of her rival, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, to the capital, Colombo, from a trip to the U.S.

Kumaratunga -- who has broad constitutional powers -- fired three of Wickremesinghe's Cabinet colleagues and suspended Parliament on Tuesday and stationed additional troops around the capital. She announced Wednesday that she was imposing emergency rule.

Kumaratunga accuses Wickremesinghe of appeasing Tamil Tiger rebels in his efforts to find a lasting solution to the country's two-decade conflict with the guerrilla group. The prime minister has vowed to continue his efforts to forge a peace deal for the island nation of 19 million people off southern India.

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