President of Sri Lanka, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, revoked on Tuesday, April 5, the state of emergency he had declared five days ago amidst a spate of protests, including outside his house, over the worst economic crisis on the island nation.
In gazette notification no 2274/10 issued late Tuesday night, the president announced that he has withdrawn the emergency rule ordinance which gave security forces sweeping powers to curb any disturbance in the country.
On April 1, Rajapaksa had issued a special gazette notification declaring a nationwide public emergency in effect immediately. In the notification, the President stated: “Whereas I am of the opinion that by reason of a public emergency in Sri Lanka it is expedient to do so in the interests of public security, the protection of public order, and the maintenance of supplies and services essential to the life of the community.”
The move was also allegedly to curb the nation-wide protests planned for April 3 against the government’s poor handling of the ongoing economic crisis, as people are suffering from long hours of power outages and scarcity of essentials.
The declaration of emergency came at the same time as the court ordered bail to a group of the protesters arrested for the demonstration opposite Rajapaksa’s residence on March 31.
Lawyer Nuwan Bopage, who was among the 500 lawyers gathered at the Colombo suburban Gangodawila Magistrate’s Court to provide free counsel, said that out of the 54 arrested, as many as 21 were given bail. Six were remanded until April 4. The remaining 27 are in hospitals with severe assault injuries.
The government blamed the violent incidents on an extreme group connected to opposition political parties while the protesters claimed that they had no political motivation and were only looking for solutions from the government for the hardships heaped on the public.
Several people were injured and vehicles were set on fire as the agitation outside the president’s residence in Mirihana turned violent. Police fired tear gas and water cannons at the protesters after they pulled down a steel barricade placed near the president’s residence. Following the incident, several people were arrested and a curfew was briefly imposed in most parts of Colombo city. A statement issued by the presidential media division claimed that an extremist group was behind the unrest.
In this situation, the revocation of the emergency measure assumes greater significance, as Sri Lanka’s ruling coalition appeared to have lost its majority in the 225-member Parliament with over 40 MPs declaring that they did not support the policies of the ruling coalition.
The emergency approval needed to be ratified in the Parliament after 2 weeks of it coming into effect.
On Monday, April 4, the opposition demanded to debate the emergency in Parliament for its approval.
The second largest group within the ruling Sri Lanka People’s Party (SLPP) coalition officially conveyed to Rajapaksa that their 14 members would not back the motion.
If all those members who had officially declared that they would not support the motion did not vote with the government, there was a chance that emergency regulations could not be passed in the Parliament.
Sri Lanka is currently experiencing its worst economic crisis in history, with long lines for fuel, cooking gas, and essential items which are all in short supply, as well as long hours of power cuts that the public has been suffering for weeks.
President Rajapaksa has defended his government’s actions, stressing that the foreign exchange crisis is not his fault, and the economic downturn is largely driven by the pandemic that has decimated the island’s tourism revenue and inward remittances.
Featured image: Clash between protesters and police outside the presidential residence of Sri Lanka, in capital Colombo, on March 31. Photo: Hindusthan Times
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scorinocohttps://orinocotribune.com/author/sahelicot92/May 15, 2021