Emergency declared in Sri Lanka again as anti-govt protests escalate
Sri Lankan president Gotabaya Rajapaksa's spokesperson said he invoked the tough laws to "ensure public order" after trade unions staged a nationwide strike Friday demanding his resignation over a worsening economic crisis.
Sri Lankan president Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Friday declared a state of emergency, giving security forces sweeping powers for the second time to deal with the ongoing anti-government protests over the economic crisis, AFP reported.
A spokesman for the president said he invoked the tough laws to "ensure public order" after trade unions staged a nationwide strike Friday demanding his resignation over a worsening economic crisis.
The president's move comes on a day when the student activists warned to lay siege to the Lankan parliament. The trade unions have launched an island-wide strike to demand the resignation of the ruling government over their inability in tackling the economic crisis in the country.
On Friday, thousands of student activists belonging to the Inter University Students Federation blocked the main access road to the parliament complex and carried out protests for the past 24 hours. The police resorted to firing tear gas shells and water cannons to disperse the protesters.
“We will be back on the 17th and we will block all exit points to Parliament then. The Rajapaksas must resign before that,” IUSF convenor Wasantha Liyanage said as they dispersed themselves from the protest site.
They clashed with a few Opposition legislators as they were not allowed to leave. The Opposition MPs confronted Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeyawardene in his chamber, forcing him to take up the no-trust motion against the government.
The day was marked by a crippling one-day strike by trade unions numbering over 2,000 covering all sectors.
Sri Lanka’s government has been facing a wave of protests around the country with an increasingly furious public demanding its resignation.
ALSO READ: Sri Lanka foreign reserves dip below $50 million, minister waves red flag
All trade unions of health, postal, port and other government services have joined the strike. However, several pro-ruling party trade unions have declined to join.
Since April 9, the protesters have been staying near the presidential secretariat in the ‘Gota go home gama’ or Gotabaya Go home village and since April 26 the ‘Mynah go home village’ or ‘Mahinda Go Home Village’.
Sri Lanka is currently in the throes of unprecedented economic turmoil since its independence from Britain in 1948. The crisis is caused in part by a lack of foreign currency, which has meant that the country cannot afford to pay for imports of staple foods and fuel, leading to acute shortages and very high prices.
Thousands of demonstrators have hit the streets across Sri Lanka since April 9, as the government ran out of money for vital imports; prices of essential commodities have skyrocketed and there are acute shortages in fuel, medicines and electricity supply.
ALSO READ: Sri Lanka: Oppn to bring no-confidence motion against govt, says report
Despite mounting pressure, President Rajapaksa and his elder brother and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa have refused to quit.
On Thursday, they won a key election in Parliament when their candidate convincingly won the race for the post of Deputy Speaker.
(With PTI inputs).