Another state of emergency declared in Sri Lanka as acting president takes reins
COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s acting President Ranil Wickremesinghe has declared a state of emergency, according to a government notice released late on Sunday, as his administration seeks to quell social unrest and tackle an economic crisis gripping the island nation.
Sri Lanka’s beleaguered leaders have issued imposed a state of emergency several times since April, when public protests took hold against the government’s handling of a deepening economic and a persistent shortage of essentials.
“It is expedient, so to do, in the interests of public security, the protection of public order and the maintenance of supplies and services essential to the life of the community,” the notification stated.
Wickremesinghe had announced a state of emergency last week, after president Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled the country to escape a popular uprising against his government.
It was unclear whether that order been withdrawn or had lapsed, or whether Wickremesinghe had reissued the order in his capacity as acting president, having been sworn in on July 15.
A spokesman for Wickremesinghe’s office did not respond to Reuters request for comment.
The specific legal provisions of the latest emergency are yet to be announced by the government but previous emergency regulations have been used to deploy the military to arrest and detain people, search private property and dampen public protests.
The country’s commercial capital Colombo remained calm on Monday morning, with traffic and pedestrians out on the streets.
Bhavani Fonseka, senior researcher at the Centre for Policy Alternatives, said declaring a state of emergency was becoming the government’s default response.
“This has proven ineffective in the past,” Fonseka told Reuters. Rajapaksa’s resignation was accepted by parliament on Friday.
He flew to the Maldives and then Singapore after hundreds of thousands of anti-government protesters came out onto the streets of Colombo a week ago and occupied his official residence and office.
Sri Lanka’s parliament met on Saturday to begin the process of electing a new president, and a shipment of fuel arrived to provide some relief to the crisis-hit nation.
Wickremesinghe, who had previously been prime minister and was regarded as an ally of Rajapaksa, is one of the top contenders to take on the presidency full-time but protesters also want him gone, leading to the prospect of further unrest should he be elected.