Sri Lanka is coming under pressure from the international community, especially France, to revoke the Emergency regulations forthwith. It may be argued that since the war is over, there is no need for the continuation of draconian laws detrimental to the people's fundamental rights. Ideally, the state of Emergency is the least desirable in any society which upholds democratic values. But, the question is whether time is opportune for this country to relax the extraordinary laws aimed at safeguarding its national security and protecting the citizenry.
Emergency regulations and anti-terror laws have been grossly abused by successive governments to suppress the freedom of their opponents. The present regime is no exception. However, would the country have been able to battle terrorism without those laws? The answer is obviously in the negative. Similarly, although the LTTE's conventional military capability has been neutralised effectively, it is far too early for the country to lower its guard. After all, it is the international community including France that warned before the end of the war that the threat of terrorism would linger even after the decimation of the LTTE's leadership!
Interestingly, the Opposition is also for repealing the Emergency regulations. One of the conditions that the UNP has put forth for endorsing Gen. Sarath Fonseka's candidature at the next presidential election is the revocation of Emergency on a priority basis in the event of his victory. But, Gen. Fonseka, it may be recalled, proposed extreme measures such as raising the strength of the army to at least 300,000 to deal with any contingency.
Information has surfaced of some post-war terrorist plans to assassinate President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and top military leaders. On two occasions, suicide jackets have been recovered since May 18. The State intelligence agencies believe KP and other LTTE leaders overseas may have planned to offset the country's military victory by accounting for a well protected high profile target so as to boost the sagging morale of the Diasporic Tigers and LTTE fund raisers.
How the LTTE has infiltrated the security establishment is evident from the fact that Gen. Fonseka's cook was a terrorist spy. There have also been high ranking military and police officers in the pay of the LTTE. Not all the arms and explosive devices the LTTE stockpiled in Colombo have been recovered and some terrorist sleeper cells may still be there in the city and its suburbs. There is reason to believe that what remains of the LTTE's killing machine is in a state of suspended animation.
The task the security forces and the police are saddled with in the post-war period is to hunt down the surviving terrorist cadres and recover their hidden arms in the North and the East as well as elsewhere. That is the only way to ensure that there won't be a recurrence of terrorism.
It is the mindless terrorism of the LTTE and the JVP that necessitated the use of Emergency and anti-terror laws. Their violence had to be eradicated at any cost. The country has dealt with the JVP terror twice, in 1971 and in the late 1980s. Both the SLFP and the UNP responsible for quelling the two insurrections respectively used the draconian laws at issue for that purpose. Even France and other western countries which demand that Sri Lanka do away with Emergency immediately have introduced tough anti-terror laws to protect their national security interests. Therefore, the international community should ask itself whether it is reasonable to try to force this country to repeal its laws intended to ward off possible security threats.
Sri Lanka's democracy is like a patient recuperating from a major surgery and it must not be made to do aerobics at this juncture. It should be allowed to recover slowly. Rome, they say, was not built in a day.