Sri Lankan leader declares state of emergency | the islander
Sri Lanka’s president has declared a state of emergency amid widespread public protests demanding his resignation following the country’s worst economic crisis in recent memory.
The decree issued by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa allows him to make regulations in the interests of public safety, the preservation of public order, the suppression of mutinies, riots or civil disturbances, or for the maintenance of essential supplies.
Under the emergency regulations, Rajapaksa can authorize detentions, take possession of any property and search any premises. It can also modify or suspend any law.
Rajapaksa’s announcement comes as protesters occupy the entrance to the president’s office for a 28th day, demanding that Rajapaksa, his brother and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and the rest of the powerful ruling family step down.
Police used tear gas and water cannon twice on Friday to disperse protesters near parliament criticizing MPs for failing to overthrow the president and his government, whom they say are responsible for the crisis economic.
Sri Lanka is on the verge of bankruptcy after announcing that it was suspending the repayment of its foreign loans. It has $7 billion in foreign loan repayments this year out of $25 billion to repay by 2026. Its total foreign debt is $51 billion.
The Sri Lanka Bar Association has asked the president to explain the reasons for the declaration of emergency and asked that it be revoked. The association also asked the authorities to guarantee freedom of expression, publication and peaceful assembly of the population.
For several months, Sri Lankans have endured long queues to buy fuel, cooking gas, food and medicine, most of which come from abroad. Hard currency shortages have also hampered imports of raw materials for manufacturing and worsened inflation, which jumped to 18.7% in March.
As oil prices soar during the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, Sri Lanka’s fuel stocks are running low. Authorities have implemented power cuts across the country extending up to 13 hours a day because they cannot supply enough fuel to power stations.
Shops, banks, factories, offices and schools were closed across the country on Friday, transport came to a virtual standstill and widespread protests took place against the government.
Opposition lawmakers raised objections in parliament over the use of tear gas against students, after which the president adjourned the session until May 17.
Some protesters blocked the exits through which lawmakers tried to leave parliament and questioned them about what they had achieved for the people in numerous meetings.
Protesters hung up underwear near a road leading to Parliament and chanted: ‘This is all we have left!’
“There are discussions going on inside this den of thieves called Parliament, and none of the people’s issues are discussed there,” said student leader Wasantha Mudalige.
Sri Lanka has held talks with the International Monetary Fund to secure an immediate funding facility as well as a long-term bailout, but has been told its progress will depend on debt restructuring negotiations with creditors .
Gotabaya Rajapaksa also declared a state of emergency and blocked social media when protests began in early April. But he withdrew them under local and international pressure.
Australian Associated Press