Sri Lanka declares public emergency amidst protests over economic crisis

COLOMBO: Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa declared a public emergency amid protests over the country’s worst economic crisis.
Rajapaksa issued a special notice on Friday declaring a public emergency in Sri Lanka effective April 1st.
By order of the President, Secretary of the President Gamini Senarath promulgate Extraordinary notice in the Official Gazette.
The move comes after a violent protest broke out outside Rajapaksa’s mansion on Thursday when hundreds of protesters gathered there and demanded his resignation over what they called a failure of the government. in dealing with the island nation’s worst economic crisis.
Several people were injured and vehicles burned as the situation turned violent. Police fired tear gas and water cannons at protesters after they pulled down a steel fence placed near the presidential residence. Following the incident, several people were arrested and a curfew was briefly imposed in most areas of Colombo.
The foreign exchange crisis in Sri Lanka has resulted in shortages of essential commodities such as fuel and gas. Power cuts lasted up to 13 hours a day.
A statement released by the president’s media department on Friday said an extremist group was behind the unrest near President Rajapaksa’s residence in Mirihana.
Meanwhile, police said the number of people arrested after the violence had reached 54 people. Lawyers with links to opposition parties claim that police can bring charges against those arrested under the draconian Terrorism Prevention Act (PTA).
Five policemen were injured, while a police bus, a jeep and two motorbikes caught fire as protesters turned violent. Protesters also damaged a police water cannon truck.
Sri Lanka is currently going through the worst economic crisis in its history. With long lines for fuel, cooking gas, shortages of essentials and hours of power cuts, the public suffered for weeks.
Rajapaksa has defended his government’s actions, saying the foreign exchange crisis was not his creation and that the economic downturn was largely caused by the pandemic as the island’s tourism revenue and remittances decline.

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