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Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa declares state of emergency

Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa declared a state of emergency with effect from Friday midnight

Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa declares state of emergency
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Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa declared a state of emergency with effect from Friday midnight, according to the presidential media division.

The state of emergency gives the police and the security forces power to arbitrarily arrest and detain people.

Rajapaksa's decision was to ensure public security and maintain essential services so as to make sure a smooth functioning of the country, the presidential media division said.

The decision came amid weeks of public protests demanding the resignation of the President and the government.

Sri Lanka is going through its worst economic crisis in its history with the shortage of essentials, and power outages caused by a severe forex crisis.

Rajapaksa had declared emergency on April 1 also after a mass protest opposite his private residence. He had revoked it on April 5.

The announcement comes on a day when Sri Lankan student activists warned to lay siege to Parliament as trade unions launched a crippling island-wide strike to demand the resignation of Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his government over their inability to tackle the economic meltdown.

Thousands of student activists from the Inter University Students Federation (IUSF) blocked the main access road to the parliamentary complex since Thursday and carried on protests for almost 24 hours.

The police fired tear gas shells and used a water cannon on the protesters to disperse them.

The activists vowed to return on May 17 when the assembly session reconvenes.

The day was also marked by a crippling one-day strike by trade unions numbering over 2,000 covering all sectors. All trade unions of health, postal, port and other government services have joined the strike. However, several pro-ruling party trade unions have declined to join.

Since April 9, the protesters have been staying near the presidential secretariat in the Gota go home gama' or Gotabaya Go home village and since April 26 the Mynah go home village' or Mahinda Go Home Village'.

Sri Lanka is currently in the throes of unprecedented economic turmoil since its independence from Britain in 1948. The crisis is caused in part by a lack of foreign currency, which has meant that the country cannot afford to pay for imports of staple foods and fuel, leading to acute shortages and very high prices.

Thousands of demonstrators have hit the streets across Sri Lanka, amid acute shortages in fuel, medicines and electricity supply.

Despite mounting pressure, President Rajapaksa and his elder brother and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa have refused to quit.

(With PTI inputs)

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