Sri Lanka’s president proclaimed a state of emergency in the island nation on Friday, a day after angry protestors demanded his resignation near his home and as plans were being prepared for a nationwide rally over the country’s worst economic crisis in recent memory.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa used parts of the Public Security Ordinance to issue rules in the interests of public security, public order, the suppression of mutiny, riot, or civil commotion, and the maintenance of critical supplies.
The president can order detentions, take control of any property, and search any location under the emergency regulations. He also has the power to amend or suspend any law.
The order came a day after scores of people were arrested near the president’s mansion amid protests. On Sunday, there are also plans for an island-wide public protest.
The violence during Thursday night’s march, in which police used tear gas and a water cannon and arrested 54 people, was blamed on “organised extremists” among the thousands of protestors, according to Rajapaksa’s administration. A large number of other persons were also hurt.
An attorney for some of the suspects, Nuwan Bopage, said several of them were being brought to the hospital for medical examinations for various injuries and will appear in court on Friday.
A police curfew that had been imposed in the suburbs of Colombo had been removed on Friday morning.
Long power outages and shortages of vital items are blamed on Rajapaksa by demonstrators.
The shortages are due to Sri Lanka’s massive debt obligations and depleting foreign reserves, as well as the country’s struggle to pay for imports. People queue for hours for fuel, and power is cut for several hours each day because generating units are running out of fuel, and dry weather has depleted hydroelectric capacity.
On Thursday, demonstrators stoned two army buses used by police to block the protesters on the highways leading to Rajapaksa’s private residence on the outskirts of Colombo. One of the buses was set on fire, and a fire truck rushing to put it out was turned back.
Ajith Rohana, a senior police spokesperson, informed the media that the unrest had injured 24 police officers and numerous other citizens, and that demonstrators had set fire to multiple police and army vehicles. According to Rohana, the total damage was estimated to be over $132,000, and the accused will face charges of harming public property.
Reporters questioned Rohana about allegations that police officers assaulted journalists covering the protests, with at least one of them being arrested. According to Rohana, police followed riot control procedures and intervened only after the protest became violent more than four hours after it began.
Sri Lanka’s economic troubles are attributed to successive governments’ failure to diversify exports, relying instead on traditional income sources like as tea, textiles, and tourism, as well as a habit of purchasing imported items.
Sri Lanka’s economy was severely harmed by the Covid-19 outbreak, with the government estimating a loss of $14 billion over the last two years.
Sri Lanka is likewise significantly in debt due to large-scale borrowing for non-profitable projects. Its international debt repayment requirements for this year are estimated to be over $7 billion.
Inflation jumped to 17.5 per cent in February from 16.8 percent a month earlier, according to the Central Bank. Because the government has enabled the local currency to float freely, it is projected to continue to rise.
(Adapted from CNBC.com)