Sri Lanka imposes 36-hour lockdown to quell protests over food, fuel crisis

  • Hit by government mismanagement and a subsequent Covid-19 pandemic, Sri Lanka's economy has been in a free fall due to the crash of the tourism sector.
A Sri Lankan man shouts anti government slogans during a protest outside Sri Lankan president's private residence on the outskirts of Colombo, Sri Lanka, (AP)
A Sri Lankan man shouts anti government slogans during a protest outside Sri Lankan president's private residence on the outskirts of Colombo, Sri Lanka, (AP)
Updated on Apr 02, 2022 07:15 PM IST
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Written by Sharmita Kar | Edited by Chandrashekar Srinivasan, New Delhi

Sri Lanka on Saturday declared a 36-hour lockdown as hundreds of lawyers urged President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to revoke the emergency declared after violent clashes that began late Thursday night in Colombo. Protests have since erupted in several other towns as well, as the island nation faces a massive foreign currency debt that has left it unable to pay for fuel and other essential goods, leading to daily 13-hour power cuts and shortage of food and diesel. The emergency declared by Rajapaksa allows the military to arrest people without warrants.

Here are the top developments:

  1. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa declared a public emergency and imposed a nationwide lockdown from Saturday evening till Monday morning to 'protect public order and maintain essential supplies and services'. "Under the powers given to the president, curfew has been imposed countrywide from 6 pm (1230 GMT) on Saturday to 6 am (0030 GMT) on Monday," read a statement by the government's information department.
  2. India sent a consignment of 40,000 tonnes of diesel on Saturday, a fourth load of relief materials, to mitigate the crisis. Indian traders have also started loading 40,000 tonnes of rice for Sri Lanka. India had earlier announced that it will extend a USD 1 billion line of credit to Sri Lanka as part of its financial aid to deal with the economic crisis.
  3. The 'state of emergency' order raised fears that the Sri Lankan government could resort to a crackdown to quell agitations. Police have arrested 53 people so far and briefly imposed a stringent curfew in and around Colombo to contain other sporadic protests.
  4. US Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung extended support to the protesters, saying they had the right to protest peacefully and that it was essential for democratic expression. "I am watching the situation closely, and hope the coming days bring restraint from all sides, as well as much needed economic stability and relief for those suffering," she tweeted.
  5. About 22 million people in Sri Lanka are grappling with rolling blackouts for up to 13 hours a day as the government scrambles to secure foreign exchange to pay for fuel imports. Hundreds of people clashed on Thursday with police and the military outside Rajapaksa's residence as they called for his ouster and torched several police and army vehicles.
  6. Experts have said that the ongoing crisis is a result of economic mismanagement by successive governments, which was further compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic, frustrating tourism and remittances. It has also caused a dent in the political support for Rajapaksa, who swept to power in 2019 promising stability.
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