mystery of the still born emergency
The legal sacking of the three cabinet ministers in charge of Defence,
Interior and Mass Communication came into force only on Friday --
four days after they received letters from President Chandrika Kumaratunga
relieving them of their porfoilios, as misinformation and confusion
about the issue of Gazettes marked the first days since the President
triggered a constitutional crisis with the move.
President Kumaratunga had in fact declared a state of emergency
following the sacking of these ministers continued till Friday when
it was announced that no state of emergency was declared but only
provisions of the Public Security Act were brought into force giving
the President power to declare a curfew and the armed forces powers
enjoyed by the police.
Sunday Times learns that even this gazette notification No. 1313/15
dated 6 November was not issued following the sacking of the ministers,
but is a gazette issued periodically and has been issued for the
past several months in order to keep the armed forces in a state
of 'Active Service' without actually having them deployed.
of a State of Emergency scare spread like wildfire throughout the
country and through international news agencies to most parts of
the world. These news agencies showed video-footage of troops outside
state media institutions and said that Sri Lanka was once again
under Emergency rule.
Office was partly to blame for this confusion. It issued a news
release through the Foreign Office to heads of Sri Lankan missions
overseas stating that the State of Emergency has been "rescinded"
because the President had not signed the proclamation to legalise
meaning of "rescind" is that a law or contract is no longer
valid indicating that a state of emergency had been declared and
was now withdrawn.
Legal sources, however, told The SundayTimes that the proclamation
(signature of the President) is the first step in the process of
the publication of the gazette. It is not usual for the gazette
to be printed before such a proclamation.
Printer Neville Nanayakkara told The Sunday Times the gazette declaring
a state of emergency had indeed been printed and after it was printed,
a proof had been called for by the new Defence Ministry secretary.
The Government Printer never got the proof back. He was only told
not to proceed with the numbering of the gazette and not to issue
The newly appointed
Defence Secretary, Cyril Herath, said certain drafts of the emergency
regulations were sent to the Government Printer ready to print at
any given moment. "This was a necessary step as the Emergency
Regulations span up to 40 pages and the proof reading and other
requirements could not be done in a short time if the necessity
arose suddenly," he said.
Office then added to the already existing confusion by informing
the foreign missions through the Foreign Office that the state of
emergency would only last a "few days".