Sri Lanka on Friday declared a state of emergency through a presidential decree to quell public unrest and demonstrations due to the economic crisis.
Sri Lanka’s President Gotabaya Rajapaksa declared a state of emergency on Friday, giving sweeping powers to armed forces to round up and arrest any individual without providing sufficient explanation. The emergency provisions will also allow the security forces to arrest suspects for months without trial.
The state of emergency is meant for the “protection of public order and the maintenance of supplies and services essential to the life of the community,” he said while reading out the proclamation.
This comes a day after hundreds of protestors tried to storm his house as calls for his resignation grew louder across the island nation.
Some demonstrators even carried abusive and derogatory comments about the Rajapaksas.
During a protest outside President’s private home, people were heard chanting “lunatic, lunatic, go home” before the police brutally dispersed the crowd using tear gas and water cannon.
However, to their dismay, the crowd turned violent and set dozens of military outposts and government properties ablaze.
Sri Lankan media reports that the security establishment has arrested and tortured dozens of protestors in the crackdown. The government responded by saying that police would be investigated after the return of normalcy.
Sri Lanka has faced a huge economic crisis for the past few weeks, with millions facing food and fodder shortages. There has been a steep rise in inflation and commodity prices besides crippling power cuts.
After the declaration, the military imposed a night curfew in the capital Colombo thus expanding the no-go zone from the previous night.
Meanwhile, government spokespersons on Friday claimed that the life of the President and his family was in danger.
“Both the president and his wife were at their home when the protests were going on,” said Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella while addressing reporters in the capital Colombo.
The Rajapaksa family has monopolized key Sri-Lankan political and economic institutions. Gotabaya Rajapaksa is the President of Sri Lanka, his brother, Mahinda Rajapaksa is the Prime Minister. Another brother, Basil, is the Finance Minister. His extended family members also hold key cabinet positions in the government.
Transport Minister Dilum Amunugama has blamed anti-national elements for the unrest. Besides years of accumulated borrowing, economic experts also blame the Rajapaksa family’s nepotism and corruption for the current crisis.
Sri Lanka has been facing a huge financial crisis for the last few months. While its economy has been on a declining curve for the previous few years, it took an ugly turn in the last few weeks as inflation in Colombo hit 18.7 percent. Food prices rose by a record 30.1 percent.
In 2020, it had banned imports to save foreign currency and repay its debts running into over $51 billion.
Many petrol pumps have been closed to the unavailability of oil. Electricity suppliers have also imposed a daily 13-hour power cut from Thursday to save fuel. Due to a lack of electricity and power, hospitals have stopped surgeries, thus leading to several deaths.
All this has exacerbated the public unrest. While people are blaming the Rajapaksa family for the ongoing crisis, the powerful Rajapaksas don’t seem to be in a mood to bow down. Only time will tell if they will be able to sail through the present crisis with draconian emergency provisions and a brutal military crackdown.