Following violent protests over the country’s worst economic crisis in decades, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa declared a nationwide state of public emergency late Friday.

Sri Lanka declares public emergency after violent protests
Sri Lanka declares public emergency after violent protests: Sri Lankan army commandos walk past a damaged bus after it was set on fire by demonstrators at the top of the road to Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s residence during a protest against him, as many parts of the crisis-hit country face up to 13 hours without electricity due to a shortage of foreign currency to import fuel, in Colombo, Sri Lanka April 1, 2022. REUTERS. source

In a government gazette notification, Rajapaksa stated that he made the decision in the interests of public security, public order, and the maintenance of supplies and essential services.

Hundreds of protesters clashed with police and the military outside Rajapaksa’s home in a Colombo suburb on Thursday.

On Friday, police arrested 53 people and imposed a curfew in and around Colombo to quell sporadic protests over shortages of basic items such as fuel and other goods.

Rolling blackouts for up to 13 hours a day are expected in the Indian Ocean island nation of 22 million people as the government scrambles to secure foreign exchange to pay for fuel imports. find out more

The pandemic has decimated the country’s lucrative tourism industry and remittances from foreign workers, and the government’s finances have been further strained by deep tax cuts promised by Rajapaksa during his 2019 election campaign.

Ordinary Sri Lankans are also experiencing shortages and rising inflation as a result of the country’s sharp devaluation of its currency last month in preparation for talks with the International Monetary Fund on a loan program.

In a country where India and China are competing for influence, an alliance of 11 political parties has urged Rajapaksa to dissolve the cabinet and form a government with all parties to deal with the crisis, local media reported.

On Thursday, after torching several police and army vehicles, police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse crowds near Rajapaksa’s residence.

An official said at least two dozen police officers were hurt in the clashes, but declined to say how many protesters were hurt.

Such protests, according to Tourism Minister Prasanna Ranatunge, will harm the country’s economic prospects. “The main issue facing Sri Lanka is a currency shortage, and such protests will harm tourism and have economic implications,” Ranatunge said.

Hanaa Singer-Hamdy, the UN representative in the country, urged all parties involved in the clashes to exercise restraint. “We’re keeping an eye on things and are concerned about reports of violence,” she wrote on Twitter.

The country’s stock market was shut down for the third day in a row on Friday after the main blue-chip index dropped 10%.

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