Sri Lanka leader declares emergency amid protests

May 6, 2022, 1:29 PM | Updated: 1:33 pm
Protestors carry a mock coffin of prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa outside parliament during a coun...

Protestors carry a mock coffin of prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa outside parliament during a countrywide strike in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Friday, May 6, 2022. Protesters have hung undergarments near Sri Lanka's Parliament while shops, offices and schools closed and transport came to a near standstill amid nationwide demonstrations against the government over its alleged inability to resolve the worst economic crisis in decades. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)

(AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lanka’s president declared a state of emergency Friday giving him broad authority amid widespread public protests demanding his resignation over the country’s worst economic crisis in recent memory.

The decree issued by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa invokes sections of the Public Security Ordinance that allow him to make regulations in the interests of public security, the preservation of public order, the suppression of mutiny, riot or civil commotion, or for the maintenance of essential supplies.

Under the emergency regulations, Rajapaksa can authorize detentions, take possession of any property and search any premises. He can also change or suspend any law.

Police used tear gas and a water cannon twice Friday at protesters near the Parliament criticizing lawmakers for not ousting the president and his government, whom they say are responsible for the economic crisis. Protesters are angry that the lawmakers have elected a government-backed deputy speaker of Parliament with a big majority when the protesters say they should be voting Rajapaksa’s government out of power.

At first police fired tear gas at a student-led protest that began Thursday after the election of the deputy speaker in what was seen a key victory for the governing coalition, which was seeing defections and uncertain of a clear majority in Parliament.

Separately, police dispersed more protesters with tear gas Friday night also around Parliament.

Sri Lanka is near bankruptcy having announced it is suspending repayment of its foreign loans and its usable foreign currency reserves plummeting below $50 million. It has $7 billion foreign loan repayments this year out of $ 25 billion to be repaid by 2026. Its total foreign debt is $ 51 billion.

Rajapaksa’s announcement comes as protesters occupy the entrance to the president’s office for a 28th day, demanding Rajapaksa, his brother and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and the rest of the powerful ruling family to quit.

Similar protests have spread to other locations, with people setting up camps opposite the prime minister’s residence and other towns across the country.

Leaders at the protest opposite the president’s office said they will continue their demonstrations despite the emergency declaration.

“Suppression is not the answer to these protests but the consideration of the people’s demands, and they are ‘President leave immediately, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa leave immediately, and the government go home,'” protest leader Lahiru Weerasekara told journalists.

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka, the country’s lawyers’ group demanded that the president explain the reasons for declaring emergency and urged that it be revoked. The association also asked authorities to ensure the people’s freedom of expression, publication and peaceful assembly.

For several months, Sri Lankans have endured long lines to buy fuel, cooking gas, food and medicine, most of which come from abroad. Shortages of hard currency have also hindered imports of raw materials for manufacturing and worsened inflation, which surged to 18.7% in March.

As oil prices soar during the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Sri Lanka’s fuel stocks are running out. Authorities have implemented countrywide power cuts extending up to 13 hours a day because they can’t supply enough fuel to power generating stations.

Shops, offices and schools were also closed across the country on Friday, transport came to a near standstill and widespread demonstrations took place against the government.

Opposition lawmakers raised objections in Parliament over the use of tear gas against the students, after which the speaker adjourned the session until May 17. Students withdrew from the protest site, warning that they will return when Parliament resumes and demanding that Rajapaksa resign before then.

Some other protesters blocked exits through which the lawmakers tried to leave Parliament and questioned them about what they had achieved for the people in many meetings.

Factories, banks and government offices were also closed Friday, with employees demonstrating in front of them. Black flags were displayed at some shops in response to a call from trade unions and other organizations, and many protesters wore black T-shirts.

Protesters also hung undergarments by a road leading to Parliament and chanted, “This is all we are left with!”

“People have been telling this government to go home for a month,” student leader Wasantha Mudalige said at the Parliament protest. “They have endured big problems that have led to this demand.”

“There are discussions going on inside this thieves’ den called Parliament, and none of the people’s issues are discussed there. So the people’s decision is that the Parliament does not reflect their sentiments,” he added.

So far, the Rajapaksa brothers have resisted calls to resign, though three Rajapaksas out of the five who are lawmakers stepped down from their Cabinet posts in mid-April.

Sri Lanka has been holding talks with the International Monetary Fund to get an immediate funding facility as well as a long-term rescue plan but was told its progress would depend on negotiations on debt restructuring with creditors.

Any long-term plan would take at least six months to get underway.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa also declared an emergency and blocked social media when protests started first early in April. But he withdrew them under local and international pressure.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

North Texas shooter kills 2, wounds 3 cops, takes own life

HALTOM CITY, Texas (AP) — A gunman killed two people and wounded four others, including three police officers, before taking his own life Saturday evening in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, police said. Haltom City Police Det. Matt Spillane said early Sunday that all of those wounded in the shooting in a residential neighborhood had non-life […]
1 day ago
FILE - In this Saturday, Oct. 1, 2011 file photo, Associated Press Special Regional Correspondent f...
Associated Press

Hope and despair: Kathy Gannon on 35 years in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The Afghan policeman opened fire on us with his AK-47, emptying 26 bullets into the back of the car. Seven slammed into me, and at least as many into my colleague, Associated Press photographer Anja Niedringhaus. She died at my side. Anja weighed heavy against my shoulder. I tried to look […]
1 day ago
FILE - In this Monday, Nov. 18, 2019 file photo, the logo of Google is displayed on a carpet at the...
Associated Press

Google to erase more location info as abortion bans expand

Google will automatically purge information about users who visit abortion clinics or other places that could trigger legal problems now that the U.S. Supreme Court has opened the door for states to ban the termination of pregnancies.
1 day ago
FILE - President Joe Biden, center, meets with South Korea's President Yoon Suk Yeol, left, and Jap...
Associated Press

North Korea slams US-South Korea-Japan military cooperation

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea on Sunday slammed the United States, South Korea and Japan for pushing to boost their trilateral military cooperation targeting the North, warning that the move is prompting urgent calls for the country to reinforce its military capability. North Korea has long cited what it calls hostility by the […]
1 day ago
FILE - Uvalde School Police Chief Pete Arredondo, second from left, stands during a news conference...
Associated Press

Uvalde schools’ police chief resigns from City Council

The Uvalde school district’s police chief has stepped down from his position in the City Council just weeks after being sworn in following allegations that he erred in his response to the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School that left 19 students and two teachers dead. Chief Pete Arredondo said in a letter dated Friday […]
1 day ago
Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson throws a pass during an NFL football practice at FirstE...
Associated Press

Attorneys seek Deshaun Watson NFL investigation documents

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Attorneys for multiple women suing Deshaun Watson over allegations of sexual misconduct are seeking the documents from the NFL’s investigation into the former Houston Texans quarterback. According to the motion filed Friday by the women’s attorneys, Tony Buzbee and Cornelia Brandfield-Harvey, the legal team seeks any and all reports and files […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

...
CANVAS ANNUITY

Best retirement savings rates hit 4.30%

Maximize your retirement savings with guaranteed fixed rates up to 4.30%. Did you know there is a financial product that can give you great interest rates as you build your retirement savings and provide you with a paycheck for life once you retire? It might sound too good to be true but it is not; this product is called an annuity.
...
Day & Night Air

Tips to lower your energy bill in the Arizona heat

Does your summer electric bill make you groan? Are you looking for effective ways to reduce your bill?
...
Christina O’Haver

BE FAST to spot a stroke

Every 40 seconds—that’s how often someone has a stroke in the United States. It’s the fifth leading cause of death among Americans, with someone dying of a stroke every 3.5 minutes.
Sri Lanka leader declares emergency amid protests