Colombo, Sri Lanka ( Associated Press) — The current Sri Lankan president declared a state of emergency on Monday, giving him broad powers, amid mounting protests by the country’s lawmakers for his resignation two days before the election of a new president.
Ranil Wickremesinghe became acting president on Friday after his predecessor, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, fled the country on Wednesday and resigned after months of massive protests over the country’s economic collapse.
Marches are being taken out in most parts of the country demanding Wickremesinghe’s resignation, some protesters have burnt his pictures.
Lawmakers met on Saturday to begin the process of electing a new president to complete the remainder of Rajapaksa’s vacant term. Candidates will be presented on Tuesday, and if there is more than one candidate, MPs will vote on Wednesday.
The emergency decree issued by Wickremesinghe mentions parts of the Public Safety Ordinance that allow them to take actions in the interests of security, public order, suppression of riots, riots or civil unrest, or maintaining the supply of essential commodities.
Under emergency rules, the Acting President can order arrest, seize any property and conduct searches anywhere. You can also change or suspend a law.
The South Asian nation is caught in an unprecedented economic crisis that has created political uncertainty.
Sri Lanka has run out of money to pay for imports of basic goods such as food, fertilisers, medicine and fuel for its 22 million people. Its rapid economic fallout has been even more shocking because before the crisis, the economy was growing with a growing and prosperous middle class.
Sri Lanka has sought help from the International Monetary Fund and other creditors, but officials have said its financial situation is so bad it is difficult to even obtain a bailout.
There were widespread protests demanding the resignation of the Rajapaksa-led government due to economic difficulties. Although several ministers resigned in April, Rajapaksa remained in power until last week.
The main protest took place in the capital Colombo, where protesters camped outside the President’s office for more than 100 days.
Dissidents accused Rajapaksa and his prominent political family of extorting money from the state treasury and accelerating the economic collapse through mismanagement. The family has denied allegations of corruption, although Rajapaksa has acknowledged that some of his actions contributed to the downfall.
Rajapaksa first fled to Maldives and then to Singapore on Wednesday.