COLOMBO: Sri Lanka imposed a countrywide curfew starting Saturday evening until Monday morning, in addition to a state of emergency declared by the president, in an attempt to prevent more protests blaming the government for the worsening economic crisis.
The government’s information head Mohan Samaranayake said that the curfew is being imposed under powers vested with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. He drew the ire of protesters who called for his resignation outside his residence on Thursday night, leading to police firing tear gas and arresting scores of people.
“The curfew is an attempt to shut the people up,” said Ruki Fernando, a human rights activist who headed to a protest in the capital, Colombo, which dispersed early after the curfew came into force.
“I don’t know why a curfew has been declared. What we need now is not a curfew, we need food, gas, fuel and the freedom to express ourselves,” Fernando said.
Rajapaksa assumed emergency powers on midnight Friday amid widespread calls for protests throughout the country on Sunday, as anger over shortages of essential foods, fuel and long power cuts boiled over this week.
Sri Lanka faces huge debt obligations and dwindling foreign reserves, and its struggle to pay for imports has caused a lack of basic supplies. People wait in long lines for gas, and power is cut for several hours daily because there’s not enough fuel to operate power plants and dry weather has sapped hydropower capacity.