Sri Lanka declared a 36-hour nationwide curfew Saturday and deployed troops backed with sweeping new powers under a state of emergency to quell protests against the president, his relatives and even his most trusted shaman.
The lockdown will go into effect at dusk Saturday and be lifted on Monday morning, police said — a period that covers planned mass anti-government protests against worsening shortages of fuel, food and medicines.
Protests have since erupted in several other towns as well, as the island nation faces a massive foreign currency debt that has left it unable to pay for fuel and other essential goods, leading to daily 13-hour power cuts and shortage of food and diesel. The emergency declared by Rajapaksa allows the military to arrest people without warrants.
India sent a consignment of 40,000 tonnes of diesel on Saturday, a fourth load of relief materials, to mitigate the crisis. Indian traders have also started loading 40,000 tonnes of rice for Sri Lanka. India had earlier announced that it will extend a USD 1 billion line of credit to Sri Lanka as part of its financial aid to deal with the economic crisis.
The ‘state of emergency’ order raised fears that the Sri Lankan government could resort to a crackdown to quell agitations. Police have arrested 53 people so far and briefly imposed a stringent curfew in and around Colombo to contain other sporadic protests.
(With inputs from agencies)