The Sri Lanka Parliament on Monday passed the 'state of emergency' with claims to seize hidden food stocks amid soaring prices of food and essential items.
The ruling Gotabaya Rajapaksa government passed the state of emergency with majority votes, with the opposition parties complaining that the law is a danger to democracy, rights and freedom of expression as the same law could be used to suppress dissent voices against the government.
Rajapaksa had on August 30 gazetted state of emergency as a means to maintain food supplies and essential services during the Covid-19 pandemic. The regulations had to be passed by the Parliament within 14 days.
The President also appointed a senior military official in a new post titled Commissioner General of Essential Services to control the distribution of essential consumer goods, including paddy, rice and sugar.
Amid the price hike, traders were hoarding essential goods like sugar and rice. The price control imposed by the government also led to a shortage of food items like milk powder.
The military and the authorities have been seizing food stocks and confiscating warehouses with paddy and sugar.
However, the opposition alleged that the state of emergency has been imposed not only to control essential food prices, but also to silence the dissent against the government.
Tamil National Alliance (TNA) lawmaker M A. Sumanthiran said there is no guarantee that the law will not interfere with the freedom of expression.
He argued that the existing laws are sufficient to control the prices of food and their supplies. The law will not confine only to the essential services but it would threaten the human rights as well, Sumanthiran argued.
Sri Lanka maintained state of emergency during the 30-year long war against Tamil rebels and during the two youth uprisings in 1972 and 1987/88.