Sri Lanka ends emergency rule imposed after Easter bombings

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Sri Lanka has reached to the end officially four months of emergency rule imposed after a series of suicide attacks that slayed more than 260 people left the government in dismay and raised fears of renewed ethnic tensions in the island-nation.

It is allowed by President Maithripala Sirisena the emergency rule, which was put in place shortly after the April 21 bombings, to gap by not signing a decree that would extend it for another month.

He had previously prolonged the order on the 22nd of every month following the massacres that happened when suicide bombers attacked three churches and three hotels around the capital, Colombo, and the eastern town of Batticaloa on Easter Sunday.

The official government news portal tweeted on Friday “The minister of defence will not extend the state of emergency.”

The emergency laws gave the military and police sweeping controls to arrest and arrest suspects without court orders. Critics charge it has been used to unfairly target Muslim citizens. 

Hundreds have been detained since April as the government used the emergency order, as well as curfews and social media blackouts, to tighten security across the country and hunt members of two local Muslim groups it said were responsible for the attacks.

Those groups had claimed allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS), though a Sri Lankan investigator said in July that the groups were inspired; but not directly linked, to ISIL.

Sri Lankan establishments say all those directly responsible for the suicide bombings have either been killed or arrested.

A return to routine?

The end of emergency rule signifies a perceived calm returning to the country, which relies heavily on its $4.4bn tourism industry that has agonized since April. Several foreigners were executed in the bombings, which also injured at least 500 people.

Tourist arrivals had slumped by 70 percent in May and 57 percent in June, paralleled with the previous year.

The government and the country’s security apparatus remain in disarray since April, with accusations that officials did not act upon near-specific intelligence from foreign agencies before.

Earlier in the week, John Amaratunga, the tourism minister, had asked the president to relax the emergency law in hopes of signalling to foreign holidaymakers that the condition in the country was back to normal, according to the AFP news agency.

A parliamentary committee is investigating who was responsible for not taking the timely action.

In July, the authorities arrested Inspector General of Police Pujith Jayasundara and former Secretary to the Ministry of Defence Hemasiri Fernando over accusations they failed to stop the attacks.

Adversaries have blamed Sirisena of failing to act on precise Indian intelligence that attackers were about to hit Christian churches and other targets in Sri Lanka.