Sri Lanka’s president has declared a state of emergency for the second time in five weeks, giving security forces sweeping powers as a nationwide strike by angry demonstrators crippled the country.

A spokesman for Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said he invoked emergency laws on Friday to “ensure public order” after shops closed and public transport was halted by the strike action, bringing the nation of 22 million people to a standstill after weeks of unrest.

Police fired tear gas and used water cannon earlier in the day to disperse students attempting to storm the national parliament to demand that Rajapaksa resign.

The state of emergency gives powers to security forces to arrest and imprison suspects for long periods without judicial supervision.

The emergency powers also allow the deployment of troops to maintain law and order in addition to police.

Beleaguered Rajapaksa had declared an earlier state of emergency on April 1, a day after thousands of protesters attempted to storm his private home in the capital. That emergency was allowed to lapse on April 14.

But protests have since escalated, spurring Sri Lanka’s worst crisis since independence in 1948.
Rajapaksa has insisted he will not step down despite the escalating demonstrations.

Credit: Alj

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