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Sri Lanka declares state of emergency before parliament votes on new president

Sri Lanka declares state of emergency before parliament votes on new president

COLOMBO (Reuters) – Sri Lanka’s acting President Ranil Wickremesinghe ordered in the Official Gazette late on Sunday to declare a state of emergency in the crisis-ridden island nation, in a bid to head off unrest ahead of a parliamentary vote later this week to elect. New boss.

Beleaguered Sri Lanka’s leaders have imposed a state of emergency several times since April, when public protests erupted against the government’s handling of a deep economic crisis and persistent shortages of necessities.

“It is appropriate to do so in the interest of public security, the protection of public order, and the preservation of supplies and services essential to the life of the community,” the notice said.

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Wickremesinghe declared a state of emergency last week, after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled the country to escape a popular uprising against his government, but it was not officially notified or published in the Official Gazette. Read more

Late on Sunday, Wickremesinghe – who was sworn in on July 15 as acting president – declared a new state of emergency, the government of which has yet to announce its specific legal provisions.

Previous emergency regulations for military deployment were used to arrest and detain people, search private property, and quell public protests.

The country’s commercial capital Colombo remained quiet on Monday morning, with traffic and pedestrians out on the streets.

Bhavani Fonseca, a senior researcher at the Center for Policy Alternatives, said declaring a state of emergency has become the government’s default response.

“This has been shown to be ineffective in the past,” Fonseca told Reuters.

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Rajapaksa fled to the Maldives and then to Singapore last week after hundreds of thousands of anti-government protesters took to the streets of Colombo a week ago and occupied his official residence and office.

Parliament accepted Rajapaksa’s resignation on Friday, and convened a day later to begin the process of electing a new president, with a vote scheduled for Wednesday.

The crisis-stricken country also received a shipment of fuel that arrived to provide some relief amid the severe shortage.

Wickremesinghe, a six-time prime minister and considered an ally of Rajapaksa, is one of the top contenders for the full-time presidency but protesters want him out as well, creating the potential for further unrest should he be elected.

Sajith Premadasa, leader of the main opposition Samajji Jana Balujaya (SJB) party, is another leading candidate, along with Dulas Alahabruma, a prominent ruling party legislator who has served as Information Minister and Cabinet Spokesperson. Read more

(Corrects story to correct oddity in second paragraph)

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Written by Devgyot Ghoshal, Editing by Simon Cameron Moore

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.