Sri Lanka’s acting president has declared a state of emergency amid protests

Sri Lanka’s acting president has declared a state of emergency amid protests

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) – Sri Lanka’s acting president declared a state of emergency Monday, giving him broad powers amid growing protests demanding his resignation, two days before the country’s lawmakers elect a new president.

Ranil Wickremesinghe became acting president on Friday after his predecessor, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, resigned on Wednesday after fleeing abroad and months of mass protests over the country’s economic collapse.

Wickremesinghe’s move to impose a state of emergency comes as protests demanding his resignation continue in much of the country, with some protesters burning effigies of him.

Lawmakers meeting on Saturday began the process of electing a new leader for the remainder of Rajapaksa’s vacated term. Nominations for the new president will be heard on Tuesday and lawmakers will vote on Wednesday if there are multiple candidates.

The emergency decree issued by Wickremesinghe invokes sections of the Public Safety Ordinance that allow him to make regulations in the interest of public safety, the maintenance of public order, the suppression of riots, riots or civil disturbances, or the maintenance of essential supplies.

Under emergency regulations, Wickremesinghe can authorize detention, seize any property and search any place. He can also modify or suspend any law.

The South Indian island nation is mired in an unprecedented economic crisis that has triggered political uncertainty.

Sri Lanka lacks money to import basic necessities such as food, fertilizer, medicine and fuel for its 22 million people. Its rapid economic decline is all the more shocking because the economy was expanding before the crisis, with a growing, comfortable middle class.

Sri Lanka is seeking help from the International Monetary Fund and other lenders, but top officials say its finances are so weak that even getting a bailout has proven difficult.

The economic crisis led to political unrest and widespread protests demanding the resignation of the Rajapaksa-led government. Although several ministers resigned in April, Rajapakse remained in power until last week.

The main protests took place in the capital, Colombo, where protesters occupied the front of the president’s office for more than 100 days.

Protesters accuse Rajapaksa and his powerful political family of siphoning money from government coffers and mismanaging the economy to hasten the country’s decline. The family has denied allegations of corruption, but Rajapaksa has acknowledged that some of his policies contributed to Sri Lanka’s disaster.

Rajapakse on Wednesday first went to the Maldives and then to Singapore.

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