Sri Lanka’s President Gotabaya Rajapaksa declared a state of emergency on Friday, giving security forces broad powers a day after hundreds attempted to storm his house in protest of an unprecedented economic crisis.
As anti-Rajapaksa protests spread across the South Asian nation, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa invoked tough laws that allow the military to arrest and detain suspects for long periods without trial.
In a proclamation, he stated that the emergency was declared for the “protection of public order and the maintenance of supplies and services essential to the life of the community.” The 22-million-strong country is experiencing severe food shortages, sharp price increases, and crippling power outages in its most painful downturn since gaining independence from Britain in 1948.
Police reimposed a nighttime curfew in the Western Province, which includes the capital, Colombo, on Friday, expanding the previous night’s no-go zone.
Earlier in the evening, dozens of rights activists demonstrated in the capital with handwritten placards and oil lamps at a busy intersection.
“It’s time to fire Rajapaksa,” one placard read. “No more corruption, Gota, go home,” another said, referring to the president.
Police said activists blocked the opportunity to open a flower exhibition by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s wife, Shiranthi, in the highland town of Nuwara Eliya. Anti-government protests were also reported in the southern towns of Galle, Matara, and Moratuwa, as well as in the northern and central regions. All of this slowed traffic on major thoroughfares.