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Sri Lankan govt declares “state of emergency” 2nd time in 5 weeks amid worsening economic crisis

By Ruchi Upadhyay 
Updated Date

Colombo: The crisis-hit Sri Lankan government on Friday declared a state of emergency after the crippling strike and protest over the external debt for the second time in five weeks, giving security forces sweeping powers amid a nationwide strike by angry demonstrators who blame him for an unprecedented economic crisis.

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A spokesman for President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said he invoked the tough laws to “ensure public order” after shops closed and public transport was halted Friday, bringing the South Asian island nation of 22 million people to a standstill after weeks of unrest.

Earlier today, police again fired tear gas and water cannons at students trying to storm Sri Lanka’s parliament, as the country came to a standstill due to a strike by trade unions demanding the government step down.

Rajapaksa’s decision came to ensure public security and maintain essential services so as to make sure smooth functioning of the country, the presidential media division said. The decision also came amidst weeks of public protests demanding the resignation of the President and the government in Sri Lanka.

Notably, the island nation is going through an economic meltdown of a scale unseen since the country’s financial crisis of 1948.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had last month also declared a state of emergency in the country giving the security forces wide authority to arrest and detain suspects with immediate effect.

Last month, the government had issued the “Extraordinary Gazette” declaring a public emergency after hundreds of protesters gathered in the capital and many of them tried to storm the President’s residence to protest against the government for “poor management of economic policies, which has created mess in the country”.

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Hundreds of university students and other protesters gathered on Friday on the main road to parliament where they had started a sit-in on Thursday.

Some hung underwear on barricades as an insult to the political leadership.

“We are here because we are sick and tired of politicians lying to us. We want the president and this government to go home,” said Purnima Muhandiram, a 42-year-old advertising professional.

Thousands of shops, schools and businesses closed earlier on Friday as public and private sector workers went on strike, demanding the president and the government step down for their handling of the island’s worst financial crisis in decades.

Commuters were left stranded as private bus and train operators joined the strike.

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Healthcare workers also joined the strike, though emergency services remained operational.

Rajapaksa has refused to step down, repeatedly calling for a unity government led by him, but opposition leaders plan to move a no-confidence motion against the president and the government next week.

Rajapaksa previously declared a state of emergency on 1 April but rolled it back after five days.

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