Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa late Tuesday night revoked the state of emergency he had declared on April 1 with immediate effect in his island nation.
In a gazette notification no 2274/10 issued on Tuesday night, the president said he has withdrawn the emergency rule ordinance which gave security forces sweeping powers to curb any disturbance in the country.
President Rajapaksa has declared a public emergency on April 1 amid a spate of protests over the worst economic crisis in the country. The emergency was imposed because of the mass scale protests planned for April 3 against the current economic hardships faced by the people.
Later, the government imposed an island-wide curfew. Protests continued despite curfew and the state of emergency with senior ruling party figures having their homes surrounded by angry protesters who urged the government for solutions to the economic crisis.
Several people were injured and vehicles were set on fire as the agitation turned violent. Police fired tear gas and water cannons at the protesters after they pulled down a steel barricade placed near the president’s residence. Following the incident, several people were arrested and a curfew was briefly imposed in most parts of Colombo city.
A foreign exchange crunch in Sri Lanka has led to a shortage of essential goods such as fuel and cooking gas. Power cuts that last up to 13 hours a day. The revocation of the gazette assumes significance as the ruling coalition appeared to have lost its majority in the 225 member Parliament with over 40 MPs declaring independence from the ruling coalition.
The emergency approval needs to be ratified in the assembly after 2 weeks of it coming into effect. The Opposition demanded in Parliament on Monday to debate the emergency for its approval.
The second largest group within the ruling Sri Lanka People’s Party (SLPP) coalition had officially conveyed to Rajapaksa that their 14 members would not back the motion. If those who declared independence did not vote with the government there was a chance that emergency regulations could not be passed in the assembly.
Sri Lanka is currently experiencing its worst economic crisis in history. With long lines for fuel, cooking gas, essentials in short supply and long hours of power cuts the public has been suffering for weeks.
Rajapaksa has defended his government’s actions, saying the foreign exchange crisis was not his making and the economic downturn was largely pandemic-driven where the island’s tourism revenue and inward remittances waned.