Sri Lanka Economic Crisis LIVE Updates: Govt Imposes 36-hour-long Nationwide Curfew as Food, Fuel & Power Shortage Trigger Protests

Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa declared a nationwide public emergency late on Friday following violent protests over the country’s worst economic crisis in decades. In a Sri Lankan government gazette notification, Rajapaksa said the decision was taken in the interests of public security, the protection of public order, and to ensure the maintenance of supplies and

essential services. On Thursday hundreds of protesters clashed with police and military outside President Rajapaksa’s residence in a suburb of the capital, Colombo. The island nation of 22 million people is in the midst of its worst economic crisis in years with rolling blackouts for up to 13 hours a day as the government scrambles to secure foreign exchange to pay for fuel imports.

Indian traders have started loading 40,000 tonnes of rice for prompt shipment to Sri Lanka in the first major food aid since Colombo secured credit line from New Delhi, two officials told Reuters on Saturday.

According to economic policy experts, a bailout from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is the only viable option for Sri Lanka to tackle its debt of nearly $4 billion. The IMF will initiate discussions with Sri Lankan authorities on a possible loan program in “coming days”, an IMF spokesman said on Thursday.

Opposition condemns Emergency declared by President Rajapaksa. “We call upon #President@GotabayaR to immediately rescind this gazette notification. You cannot stifle protests and opposition to the regime by declaring a state of #emergency. I call upon fellow members of #Parliament not to approve this ill-advised move,” M. A. Sumanthiran, MP, said in a tweet.

The latest official data released Friday showed inflation in Colombo hit 18.7 percent in March, the sixth consecutive monthly record. Food prices soared a record 30.1 percent.

The southern towns of Galle, Matara and Moratuwa also saw anti-government protests, and similar demonstrations were reported in the northern and central regions. All held up traffic on main roads.

In the highland town of Nuwara Eliya, activists blocked the opening of a flower exhibition by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s wife, Shiranthi, police said.

The capital was placed under indefinite curfew in the wake of the violence.

Security forces fired into the crowd and used tear gas and water cannon to disperse the demonstrators, who were demanding Rajapaksa’s resignation.

A protest by hundreds of people trying to storm the home of Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa turned violent Thursday, with at least one man critically wounded, as residents slammed the government’s handling of the country’s crippling economic crisis.

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