COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — President Junius R. Jayewardene on Friday issued an emergency decree declaring that any person convicted of instigating strikes will be hanged.
The president's office also said that anyone found guilty of possessing leaflets or posters calling for strikes will be imprisoned or hanged.
Jayewardene's office issued copies of the decree after shops and businesses reopened following a four-day strike called by Sinhalese extremists demanding the president's resignation.
18 Protesters Slain
On Thursday, soldiers killed 18 protesters who defied curfews and marched through three Sinhalese towns. The confrontation came one day after the army was ordered to shoot demonstrators on sight.
The decree on strike instigators was issued under the state of emergency that has been in effect since 1983 when ethnic tensions in this once-placid island nation set off a chain of massacres, assassinations and guerrilla attacks.
The presidential announcement said the new regulations will be strictly enforced in the interests of "the welfare of the people of this country."
The army was ordered to arrest anyone carrying strike leaflets or posters or displaying them inside or outside their homes, according to the decree from Jayewardene's office. Anyone found in possession of such items was to be taken before a military tribunal for immediate trial, and conviction could result in prison terms or death by hanging.
The decree also provides capital punishment for anyone convicted of using intimidation to keep people away from jobs declared essential under emergency laws. These jobs include those in public transport and distribution of food and fuel.
Round-the-clock curfews were extended until 8 a.m. local time today in predominantly Sinhalese southern and central Sri Lanka.
The People's Liberation Front, composed of Sinhalese extremists, has vowed to keep calling strikes until Jayewardene--himself a Sinhalese--dissolves Parliament and resigns, clearing the way for a caretaker government representing all political parties to oversee the Dec. 19 presidential elections. The strikes are usually announced by leaflets or by posters that appear on walls overnight.
Jayewardene, barred by the constitution from seeking a third term, is not running for reelection, but the front says his government is incapable of conducting a fair election.
The front opposes Jayewardene's peace overtures to Tamil guerrillas fighting for a separate homeland in northern and eastern Sri Lanka.