01/08/2008, 00.00
SRI LANKA
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Sri Lankan minister killed in explosion

by Melani Manel Perera
Nation-Building Minister D.M. Dassanayake is killed in a roadside bombing. Meanwhile international criticism of the country’s deteriorating human rights situation pushes Supreme Court to slap restrictions on night time arrests and searches by the army.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – The situation is worsening in Sri Lanka. Nation-Building Minister D.M. Dassanayake was killed today in a roadside bombing that tore through his car as he travelled through the Ja-Ela area, some 19 kilometres north of Colombo. The minister was rushed into surgery at the Ragama Teaching Hospital but died, doctors said.

The attack has all the hallmarks of a retaliatory strike by Tamil Tiger rebels for the killing on Sunday of their intelligence chief, “Colonel Charles.” So far though, no one has claimed responsibility.

The Sri Lankan government announced on 2 January that as of 16 January it was pulling out of the ceasefire agreement signed with the separatist rebels in 2002. But both parties had effectively stopped respecting its terms for the past two years and resumed the civil war.

International criticism for the government’s decision to end the truce and growing alarm over the deteriorating human rights conditions in the country have led the Sri Lankan Supreme Court to slap restrictions on night time arrests and searches by security forces in private homes.

Chief Justice Sarath Silva ordered authorities that there should be at least one police officer when the army conducts search operations.

Last week the London-based Minority Rights Group International expressed concerns over the safety of civilians, warning that fundamental freedoms were under threat as the number of violations mounted in the wake of escalating clashes.

“We are grateful for the Court’s attempt to protect us a bit more’” said some Colombo residents.

“When our husbands are out of the house for work,” said a mother of four, “it is very embarrassing and dangerous to open the door to let soldiers in.”

A state of emergency has been in place across the island nation since December 2006 when the Sri Lankan Defence minister, who is also the brother of President Mahinda Rajapakse, survived an attack by the Tamil Tigers.

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