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Sri Lanka Acts to End Strike and Protests

June 21, 1989|From Reuters

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — The government Tuesday imposed a state of emergency, giving the military sweeping powers of arrest and detention to tackle deteriorating law and order and to restore bus services crippled by a strike.

"The state of emergency will enable law enforcement authorities to act expeditiously and more effectively to maintain law and order and to ensure external peace," Deputy Defense Minister Ranjan Wijeratne told Parliament.

Sri Lanka has been rocked by protests in the last three weeks over the presence of 45,000 Indian troops, who are on the island to implement an agreement between New Delhi and Colombo to end a separatist Tamil campaign in the north and east.

President Ranasinghe Premadasa has said he would like to see the last Indian soldiers off the island by July 31.

Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi says they will be recalled only after Colombo devolves power to a provincial council in the north and east that looks after the affairs of the Tamils.

Compelled to Take Action

Wijeratne told a meeting of ruling United National Party members of Parliament that the government was compelled to act to maintain law and order and essential services.

He spoke as police dispersed small groups of demonstrators in Angunukolapellesa and other southern areas who were demanding the withdrawal of Indian troops and shouting anti-government slogans.

The immediate cause for emergency rule was a weeklong bus strike that has paralyzed public transportation. Workers have ignored government calls to return to their jobs and negotiate on their demand for a wage increase.

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