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Crisis-hit Sri Lanka lifts State of Emergency after 2 weeks

Sri Lanka 5
The move was taken with the improvement of the law and order situation (FIle)

Colombo, May 21: The Sri Lankan government lifted the state of emergency from Saturday, nearly two weeks after it was imposed across the island nation as it faced unprecedented economic and anti-government protests.
Embattled Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had declared a state of emergency with effect from May 6 midnight, the second time in just over a month amidst growing countrywide anti-government protests over the economic crisis.
The Presidential Secretariat stated that the state of emergency has been lifted with effect from Friday midnight, Hiru News reported.
The move was taken with the improvement of the law and order situation in the island nation.
The state of emergency gave the police and the security forces sweeping power to arbitrarily arrest and detain people.
The president’s decision to declare the emergency had come amidst weeks of protests demanding his resignation and the government, blaming the powerful Rajapaksa clan for mishandling the island nation’s economy, already hit by the pandemic.
Nine people were killed and over 200 injured in clashes between pro- and anti-government protesters.
Sri Lanka is facing its worst economic crisis since gaining 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.
An inflation rate spiralling towards 40 per cent, shortages of food, fuel and medicines and rolling power blackouts have led to nationwide protests and a plunging currency, with the government short of the foreign currency reserves it needed to pay for imports.
New York-based ratings agency Fitch has downgraded debt-ridden Sri Lanka’s sovereign rating to “restricted default” after the country defaulted on making international sovereign bond payments.
On April 12, Fitch had downgraded Sri Lanka to ‘C’.
Sri Lanka’s CID interrogates top police officer in connection with violence on May 9
A top Sri Lankan police officer was interrogated by the Criminal Investigation Department on Saturday over his alleged actions that triggered violent clashes between anti- and pro-government protesters in the country earlier this month that killed at least 10 people and injured over 200 others.
On May 9, violence erupted in Sri Lanka after supporters of former prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa attacked peaceful anti-government protesters demanding his ouster over the country’s worst economic crisis that led to acute shortages of staple food, fuel and power.
Earlier this week, Galle district MP Ramesh Pathirana informed the Parliament that Senior Police DIG in-charge of the Western Province Deshabandu Tennakoon had informed President Gotabaya Rajapaksa that Inspector General of Police Chandana D. Wickramaratne had instructed him not to block the mob heading to Galle Face to disrupt the anti-government protesters, online portal Colombo Gazette reported.
Pathirana added that the President demanded action be taken to prevent the situation from spiralling out of control.
Following the President’s orders, police rushed to the spot and fired tear gas and water cannons on the mob, by which time scores were injured and at least 10 people were dead, according to Colombo Gazette.
Members of CID interrogated Wickremaratna on Saturday, officials said.
Last week, Sri Lanka’s CID quizzed three members of the ruling SLPP parliamentary group over their alleged involvement in the clashes.
Two of their colleagues who were arrested previously have been remanded in custody till May 25.
On Friday, Namal Rajapaksa, a former minister and the son of former Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa was also summoned and his statement has been recorded.
Members of the ruling coalition government blamed Opposition party Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna for instigating the violence on May 9, which was vehemently denied by the Marxist party.
The mob destroyed several tents and other structures erected at Galle Face and also attacked some of the demonstrators.
The violence saw arson attacks on the homes of several politicians, including the ancestral home of the Rajapaksas in Hambantota.
Video footage showed the entire house of Mahinda Rajapaksa and his younger brother and President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in Medamulana in Hambantota city was burning.
The properties of some 78 government parliamentarians faced arson in the ensuing attacks.
Sri Lanka has been witnessing large-scale protests against the government’s handling of the debt-ridden economy – the worst-ever economic crisis in the country’s history.
The country of 22 million is grappling with 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. (PTI)

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