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Rajapaksa announces militarised task force for 'disciplined, virtuous, and lawful society'

Sri Lanka’s president Gotabaya Rajapaksa announced a Presidential Task Force consisting entirely of military and police personnel to build a “secure country and a disciplined, virtuous, and lawful society,” as the state continued with its militarisation of the island.

The creation of the task force, entitled the “Presidential Task Force to build a Secure Country, Disciplined, Virtuous and Lawful Society”, was announced by Rajapaksa just hours after Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court dismissed petitions challenging his refusal to reconvene parliament and paves the way for parliamentary elections to be held. 

According to a gazette notification, the task force will be able to take “necessary immediate steps to curb the illegal activities of social groups which are violating the law which is emerging as harmful to the free and peaceful existence of society at present in some places of the country”.

The gazette also adds the task force will “take necessary measures to take legal action against persons responsible for the illegal and antisocial activities conducting in Sri Lanka while locating in other countries”.

The Sri Lankan state has repeatedly criminalised Tamil diaspora activities, placing more than 400 Tamil individuals and 16 organisations on a proscribed list in 2014

Though the ban was partially lifted the following year, half of the Tamil organisations remain banned in Sri Lanka and 155 individuals remain proscribed.

“Given that there are law & order agencies that can take care of violations of the law, is the President empowering the Task Force to take action beyond the law to curb these 'unlawful activities’?,” commented senior lecturer in Law at the University of Jaffna, Kumaravadivel Guruparan. 

“There can be no other meaning. We are going to see increasingly 'Rule by Task Forces' directed by the President within a fully militarised state. From Poverty Education to Higher Education everything will be run by Task Forces.”

See the full text of the gazette here.