Sri Lanka’s president has declared a state of emergency, giving sweeping powers to security forces a day after hundreds tried to storm his house in anger over an unprecedented economic crisis.
Protesters stormed barricades and have been accused of setting vehicles ablaze near President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s private residence on Thursday. The military has since been deployed and now has the power to arrest suspects without warrants.
The emergency was declared for “protection of public order and the maintenance of supplies and services essential to the life of the community”, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said in a proclamation.
Faced with power cuts lasting half a day or more, and a lack of fuel and essential food and medicines, public anger has reached a new high in the South Asian nation of 22 million.
The protest outside President Rajapaska’s house on Thursday began peacefully, but participants said things turned violent after police fired tear gas, water cannons and also beat people present.
Demonstrators in the capital carried placards calling for the president’s resignation. “Time to quit Rajapaksas,” said one placard. “No more corruption, go home Gota,” said another – referring to the president.
Protesters retaliated against the police by pelting them with stones. At least two dozen police personnel were reportedly injured during the clashes, according to an official cited by Reuters news agency.
On Friday, 53 demonstrators were arrested, and local media reported that five news photographers were detained and tortured at a police station.