Sri Lankan President declares state of emergency amid protests as economic crisis worsenstext_fields
Colombo: Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa declared a state of emergency in the country with effect from April 1.
This development comes amid the growing dissatisfaction of the citizens over the government's handling of the country's worst economic crisis in decades.
The Sri Lankan police had imposed an overnight curfew in several parts of Colombo early on Friday after protests outside President Rajapaksa's residence turned violent.
The President invoked the tough laws allowing the military to arrest and detain suspects for long periods without trial.
The emergency was declared for the "protection of public order and the maintenance of supplies and services essential to the life of the community," he said in a proclamation.
The nation of 22 million is facing severe shortages of essentials, sharp price rises and crippling power cuts in its most painful downturn since independence from Britain in 1948.
Police reimposed a nighttime curfew Friday in the Western Province, which includes the capital Colombo, expanding the no-go zone from the previous night.
In the highland town of Nuwara Eliya, activists blocked the opening of a flower exhibition by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa's wife, Shiranthi, police said.
The southern towns of Galle, Matara and Moratuwa also saw anti-government protests, and similar demonstrations were reported in the northern and central regions. All held up traffic on main roads.
Thursday night's unrest outside the president's private home saw hundreds of people demand he step down.
People chanted "lunatic, lunatic, go home", before police fired tear gas and used water cannon.
The crowd turned violent, setting ablaze two military buses, a police jeep, two patrol motorcycles and a three-wheeler. They also threw bricks at officers.
At least two protesters were wounded. Police said 53 protesters were arrested, but local media organisations said five news photographers were also detained and tortured at a local police station, a charge the government said it will investigate.
The police and military presence was beefed up Friday.
The latest official data released Friday showed inflation in Colombo hit 18.7 per cent in March, the sixth consecutive monthly record. Food prices soared a record 30.1 per cent.
Colombo imposed a broad ban on imports in March 2020 in a bid to save foreign currency needed to repay nearly $7.0 billion this year to service its $51 billion debt.
The government has said it is seeking a bailout from the International Monetary Fund while asking for more loans from India and China.