COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lanka’s acting president on Monday declared a state of emergency giving him broad authority amid growing protests demanding his resignation two days before the country’s lawmakers are set to elect a new president.
Ranil Wickremesinghe became acting president on Friday after his predecessor, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, fled abroad on Wednesday and resigned after months-long mass protests over the country’s economic collapse.
Wickremesinghe’s move to impose a state of emergency comes as protests demanding his resignation too have continued in most parts of the country, with some protesters burning his effigy.
On Saturday, lawmakers met to elect a leader who will serve the remainder of Rajapaksa’s term. The new president’s nominations will be heard Tuesday and, if more than one candidate is available, the legislators will vote Wednesday.
Wickremesinghe’s emergency declaration invokes the sections of the Public Security Ordinance which allow him to regulate in the interest of public security and the preservation of order public.
Wickremesinghe is authorized to detain, search and seize any property, as per the emergency regulations. He has the ability to modify or suspend any law.
An unprecedented economic crisis has brought political uncertainty to the South Indian nation.
Sri Lanka is short on money for basic needs such as fuel, food, and fertilizer. This is despite the fact that the country had an expanding economy and a large middle class.
Sri Lanka seeks help from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other creditors. However, top officials claim that its financial situation is so bad that it has been difficult to obtain a bailout.
Political upheaval followed by widespread protests calling for Rajapaksa’s government to resign due to economic hardships. Rajapaksa was still in power last week, even though many of his ministers had quit in April.
The main protests have occurred in the capital, Colombo, where protesters occupied the front of the president’s office for more than 100 days.
The protesters accuse Rajapaksa and his powerful political family of siphoning money from government coffers and of hastening the country’s collapse by mismanaging the economy. The family has denied the corruption allegations, but Rajapaksa acknowledged that some of his policies contributed to Sri Lanka’s meltdown.
Rajapaksa flew from Singapore to Maldives first on Wednesday, and then to Singapore.
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