Armed troops were deployed Saturday, April 2 in Sri Lanka, the day after the declaration of a state of emergency by the President, Gotabaya Rajapaksa. The day before, hundreds of demonstrators had tried to enter his residence in Colombo to demand his resignation, before the police used tear gas and water cannons. The crowd then set fire to two military buses, a police jeep and other vehicles, and threw bricks at the police.
While anti-government protests are scheduled for Sunday, authorities also announced the establishment of a 36-hour curfew, from Saturday evening until Monday morning April 4.
The most serious economic crisis since independence
The Head of State justified his decision by “protection of public order and the maintenance of supplies and services essential to the life of the community”. In normal times, the army can only act in support of the police, but with the state of emergency, it can intervene alone, in particular to arrest civilians.
The island of 22 million inhabitants is experiencing its most serious economic crisis since its independence in 1948. The inhabitants are suffering from major shortages of essential goods (food, fuel, medicine), a sharp rise in prices and long power cuts. .
Tourism and remittances from the diaspora, vital for the economy, have collapsed during the pandemic and the authorities have imposed a wide ban on imports in an attempt to save foreign currency.
A brake on the revival of the tourism sector
Many economists say the crisis has also been exacerbated by government mismanagement, mounting debt and ill-advised tax cuts. The state of emergency introduced by the president should not help matters, travel specialists seeing it as a brake on the revival of the tourism sector, due to the increase in insurance rates that this could generate.
On social media, posts from anti-government activists are encouraging Sri Lankans to brave police to shout their anger on Sunday. ‘Don’t let the tear gas deter you, very soon they will run out of dollars to restock’urges one of them.
For her part, US Ambassador Julie Chung warned: “Sri Lankans have the right to demonstrate peacefully, it is essential for democratic expression”. “I am monitoring the situation closely, and I hope the coming days will be marked by restraint from all parties, as well as much-needed economic stability and relief for those who are suffering.”she said on Twitter.