Sri Lanka imposes curfew after president declares state of emergency

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  • Curfew until 00:30 GMT on Monday
  • Lawyers urge president to revoke state of emergency
  • Sri Lankans suffering from lack of fuel and essential items
  • India rushes to provide food aid

COLOMBO, April 2 (Reuters) – The Sri Lankan government imposed a weekend curfew on Saturday, even as hundreds of lawyers urged President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to revoke the state of emergency imposed following of fuel unrest and other shortages in a deep economic crisis.

The government’s information department said a nationwide curfew would run from 6:00 p.m. (12:30 GMT) Saturday to 6:00 a.m. (00:30 GMT) Monday.

Rajapaksa declared a state of emergency on Friday, raising fears of a crackdown on protests. Emergency powers in the past have allowed the military to arrest and detain suspects without a warrant, but the terms of the current powers are still unclear.

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The Indian Ocean island nation of 22 million people is grappling with power outages for up to 13 hours a day as the government scrambles to secure foreign currency to pay for fuel and other imports essential. Read more .

“People take to the streets when things are impossible,” Colombo shop owner Nishan Ariyapala, 68, told Reuters TV. “When people take to the streets, the country’s political leaders must act thoughtfully.”

Rajapaksa said the state of emergency was necessary to protect public order and maintain essential supplies and services.

Angered by shortages of fuel and other essentials, hundreds of protesters clashed with police and military outside Rajapaksa’s residence on Thursday as they called for his ouster and torched several police and military vehicles. the army.

On Friday, police arrested 53 people and imposed a curfew in and around Colombo to contain further sporadic protests.

Shops opened and traffic was normal on Saturday, while police remained stationed at some gas stations.

“FAILURE TO UNDERSTAND”

“There has been a failure to understand the aspirations of the people and to understand the sufferings of the people of the country,” the lawyers, members of the Sri Lanka Bar Association, said in their appeal, adding that freedom of expression and peaceful assembly must be respected.

Reacting to the state of emergency, US Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung said, “Sri Lankans have the right to peaceful protest, which is essential for democratic expression.

“I am monitoring the situation closely and hope the next few days bring restraint on all sides, along with much needed economic stability and relief for those who are suffering,” she tweeted.

Underlining the severe shortage of foreign currency, a ship carrying 5,500 metric tons of cooking gas had to leave Sri Lankan waters after Laugfs Gas (LGGL.CM), the company that ordered it, was unable to raise $4.9 million from local banks to pay for it. .

“People are struggling with a severe shortage of cooking gas, but how can we help them when there is no money? We are stuck,” Laugfs Gas chairman WHK Wegapitiya told Reuters. .

The current crisis – the result of economic mismanagement by successive governments – has been aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has affected tourism and remittances.

It also marked a sharp shift in political support for Rajapaksa, who came to power in 2019 on a promise of stability.

The government said it was seeking a bailout from the International Monetary Fund and loans from India and China.

In the country’s first major food aid since Colombo secured a line of credit from New Delhi, Indian traders have started loading 40,000 tonnes of rice. Read more

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Reporting by Uditha Jayasinghe Writing by Rupam Jain Editing by William Mallard and Mark Potter

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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