In the midst of steering with the worst economic crisis, Sri Lankans have been bracing up long-simmering tensions as their government led by the Rajapaksa clan has imposed a state of emergency across the country as the island nation is opening to more days of bleakness with having no bottom line for the bad news. The fresh wave of crisis through emergency would further inundate the people with more crises and the nation's economy is running out of fuel.
The state of emergency was declared on Friday by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa after his private residence was stormed by the protesters on Thursday aftermath of the nationwide agitation that was sparked by the ailing economy and distressing lives. The protesters were also accused of setting vehicles on fire as they continue to intensify the agitation and the voices against the Rajapaksa clan are rampantly growing across the country.
Following the declaration of the state of emergency, the government has deployed and given more power to the military to arrest suspects without warrants. Through the order, the military is armed up to mitigate the protests of their own nationals against the despair they endure as the sequel to the flawed economic policies of the regime. The entire world is watching the developments emerge in Sri Lanka and the government has been claiming that it is taking efforts to fix the crisis.
According to Reuters, President Rajapaksa said in a government notification that he took the decision in the interests of public security, the protection of public order, and the maintenance of supplies and essential services. Hundreds of protesters had clashed with police and military on Thursday outside Rajapaksa's residence in Colombo.
Rajapaksa's office had blamed organized extremists within the thousands of protesters for violence during Thursday night's demonstration, where police fired tear gas and a water cannon and arrested 54 people. The clampdown has also injured dozens. The police had imposed a curfew in and around Colombo on Friday to contain protests that were triggered by the dearth of essential items, including fuel and other goods. Later, the curfew was revoked.
More power to Gotabaya Rajapaksa:
By declaring a state of emergency, President Rajapaksa has shelved more powers to what has been spelt as an autocracy. Now, under the emergency regulations, the president can authorize detentions, can take possession of any property and can search any premises. Under the guise of an emergency, Gotabaya can also alter or suspend any law. Besides ruling the country, the Rajapaksa clan is directly controlling nearly 80% of the nation's economy due to which the people urge them to take responsibility for the unprecedented economic crisis and step down from power.
Rajapaksa's office has blamed organized extremists within the thousands of protesters for violence during Thursday night's demonstration, where police fired tear gas and a water cannon. Nuwan Bopage, an attorney representing some of the suspects, said several of them were being taken for medical examinations for various injuries. The agitators slam Rajapaksa for long power outages and shortages of essential goods. It has been reported that most people are facing power cuts, they can't able to buy fuel, essential food, and medicines.
Sri Lanka has a population of 22 million and public anger against the government was seen in every household as the general public had lost their trust in the government owing to its apathy. During the protests on Thursday, the protesters had pelted stones against the police officers and at least two dozen police personnel were reportedly injured during the clashes. On Friday, 53 protesters were arrested and the reports say that five news photographers were detained and tortured at a police station.
Sri Lankans are also bracing up with soaring inflation after the country has steeply devalued its currency last month ahead of talks with the International Monetary Fund for a loan programme. The economic agitation has been affecting the country's lucrative tourism industry. Tourism Minister Prasanna Ranatunge had warned that such protests would harm economic prospects.
He said, "The main issue Sri Lanka is facing is a forex shortage, and protests of this nature will hurt tourism and have economic consequences." The Rajapaksas are also facing ordeals from their own circle. All alliance of eleven political parties has urged Rajapaksa to dissolve the cabinet and form a government with all parties to deal with the crisis. On the other hand, the United Nations representative in Sri Lanka, Hanaa Singer-Hamby, has called for restraint from all groups involved in the clashes.
She wrote on Twitter, "We are monitoring developments and are concerned by reports of violence." The nationwide protests, the brutal clampdown, and the declaration of a state of emergency have together made Sri Lanka have an embarrassing and disastrous stand on the global stage, that has put more pressure on Rajapaksa, who aims to have more financial aid from his neighbours India and China. However, it will levy more debt to the already-debt ridden nation.
The Covid-19 pandemic has drastically pushed the country into more economic disaster as the government estimated a loss of $14 billion in the last two years. According to the Central Bank, inflation rose to 17.5% in February from 16.8% a month earlier. It is expected to continue rising because the government has allowed the local currency to float freely amid having foreign debt repayment obligations of around $7 billion for this year alone along with shrinking foreign currency.
Last episode of the state of emergency:
The island nation was imposed with a state of emergency previously in 2019 after the deadly Easter Sunday bombings. The law allows the detention of people without any warrant and it severely curbs fundamental rights such as the freedom of movement and expression. The latest episode has sparked a sense of fear among the public that the government is going to deploy a brutal crackdown on protesters and journalists. As the current government has the majority in the Parliament, Rajapaksa will most likely be extending the state of emergency in Sri Lanka.