COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – The Sri Lankan government will maintain its state of emergency, including sweeping anti-terrorism powers, after the battlefield defeat of the Tamil Tiger rebels, according to a statement posted online Wednesday.
The state of emergency is necessary to prevent a resurgence of the rebel movement and to protect cities, Health Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva told Parliament on Tuesday. The statement by de Silva, who is also the governing party's legislative leader, was posted on a government Web site.
The government last week declared an end to the 25-year war against the rebels after a three-year military campaign to recapture the region the Tigers had ruled as a de facto independent state. Rebel leader Velupillai Prabhakaran and the top tier of the Tiger leadership were killed in the final battle.
But "the termination of civil war does not suggest a complete halt to terrorism and related atrocities," de Silva said.
Under the state of emergency, police can make arrests, enter homes and seize evidence without warrants and hold suspects for up to 18 months without trial.
De Silva spoke in response to an opposition motion to suspend the state of emergency declared after the 2005 assassination of Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, which the government blamed on the rebels.
The government has said it suspects sleeper cells of suicide bombers remain in the capital. Dozens of checkpoints conduct random searches of vehicles in the capital, Colombo, and at transportation terminals that were a favorite target of bombers.
Leading Tamil politician Veerasingham Anandasangaree said it was unfair to keep the emergency powers in place, since most of the Tamil people "gave full support to the army to liberate them. If they are treated in this manner, there is no justice at all."
Authorities say they are holding some 9,100 rebel prisoners and would release many for "rehabilitation," while several thousand would be prosecuted on suspicion of involvement in terrorist acts. The International Committee of the Red Cross said Tuesday it had visited 2,500 rebel detainees so far this month.
In Colombo's diplomatic district, hundreds of Sri Lankans protested at the Canadian Embassy on Wednesday over what they said was Canada's support for the rebels and its failure to protect Sri Lankans and their property from pro-rebel ethnic Tamils in Canada.
Protesters pelted the embassy with stones, sprayed graffiti on the wall and painted over a security camera.
Sri Lankans have reacted angrily to perceived international support for the rebels, especially from countries that pushed the government for a cease-fire in the final days of the war to rescue tens of thousands of civilians caught in the crossfire.
Thousands of the once-trapped civilians now remain in government-run camps.
Meanwhile, Anandasangaree appealed to President Mahinda Rajapaksa to release three Tamil doctors accused of delivering false information about war zone casualties to the media.
Anandasangaree said the doctors had performed unparalleled service to their patients by remaining behind in the battlefield while under heavy shelling.
"It will be a historical blunder to punish them," he wrote in a letter to Rajapaksa.
Thurairaja Varatharajah, Thangamuttu Sathyamurthi and V. Shanmugarajah spoke to reporters who contacted them about civilian casualties while continuously shifting their medical facility as the Sri Lankan army advanced.
They fled the war zone just before the government routed the last of the rebels, and were immediately detained.
Anandasangaree said the doctors, although they were government employees, had acted under orders of the Tamil rebels who controlled the area. No one "was in a position to defy the orders of the LTTE and were bound to obey their orders without questioning, including interviews to the media as directed by them," he wrote.
The rebels also are known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or LTTE.
The information the doctors gave, however, "was 100 percent true," Anandasangaree told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
The Tamil leader said he has had no response from the government, and has not been able to contact the doctors.