The Sri Lankan Parliament [official website] on Wednesday eased certain restrictions under the country's state of emergency laws, which have been in place for most of the last 27 years. Lawmakers voted to extend the state of emergency [Colombo Page report] for another month but reduced some of the toughest provisions. Parliament lifted certain restrictions [BBC report] on assembly and distributing literature and reduced the power of soldiers to conduct searches. Suspects can still be held without trial, but the time period was reduced from 18 months to three months. Former Sri Lankan army chief and defeated presidential candidate Sarath Fonseka [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] called Tuesday for the emergency regulations to be completely lifted. External Affairs Minister Gamini Lakshman Peiris told parliament that the regulations would have to be lifted gradually [AFP report].
Fonseka successfully won a seat in parliament last month, despite facing two separate court-martials charging him with participating in politics while in uniform and with improperly awarding army procurement contracts. Last month, he appeared before parliament to call for his freedom [JURIST report] and for respect for the "rule of law." Fonseka was arrested [JURIST report] by the military in February after losing presidential elections held the previous month. In March, the former chief justice of the Supreme Court criticized [JURIST report] the government's treatment of Fonseka. Sarath Nanda Silva, who retired from the Sri Lankan Supreme Court last year, accused the government of using the military justice system to prevent Fonseka from participating in the upcoming elections and of violating Fonseka's civil rights. Silva also said that Fonseka's arrest was made in violation of the country's constitution [text].