Colombo: The Sri Lankan government imposed a nationwide state of emergency, a day after violent protests outside the president’s house, BBC reported on Saturday.
Protesters had on Thursday stormed barricades and set several vehicles on fire near President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s private residence in Colombo, forcing the government to impose a curfew in the capital for a second night in a row, and has expanded it to include the whole of the country’s Western Province.
President Rajapaksa said the decision to declare a state of emergency was taken in the interests of public security, to ensure public order so as to keep the supplies and essential services going. The military which had earlier been deployed at patrol stations to ensure rationing has now been deployed and given the power to arrest suspects without warrants.
Sri Lanka is in the midst of one of its worst economic crisis, which has been caused in part by the fast depleting foreign currency reserves which is used to pay for fuel imports, thereby creating a shortage of fuel and other essential goods.
The people of Sri Lanka are facing power cuts lasting more than half of a day or more to add to the lack of fuel and essential food and medicines, which has led to a rise in public anger which has boiled over into violence on the streets.
The protest outside President Rajapaska’s house on Thursday began peacefully, but soon things turned violent after police fired tear gas, water cannons and also beat people present, injuring several of them. Protesters retaliated against the police by pelting them with stones, injuring at least two dozen police personnel.
On Friday, 53 demonstrators were arrested, and five news photographers were allegedly detained and tortured at a police station, AFP news agency reported.
The government said it will investigate the latter claim. Despite the crackdown, protests have continued, and spread to other parts of the country with people now demanding the president’s resignation.
These demonstrations mark a massive turnaround in the popularity for President Rajapaksa, who had swept to power with a majority win in 2019, promising stability and a “strong hand” to rule the country.