Sri Lanka declared a 36-hour nationwide curfew from Saturday 6 pm to Monday 6 am amid a series of protests over the economic crisis in the country, AFP reported.
The development came a day after Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa imposed a state of emergency after violent protests outside his home as the country’s faces its worst economic meltdown since independence. Angry demonstrators dismantled a wall and set a bus on fire on a road leading to Rajapaksa’s home in Colombo’s Mirihana.
The island nation on Saturday deployed troops, who now possess special powers under the state of emergency to put a stop to protests against the president, his relatives and his most trusted shaman. Authorities can now also detain civilians.
During the curfew, Sri Lankans are not allowed to step out of homes, except for essential services, NDTV reported.
The curfew and state of emergency have been imposed after social media users urged citizens to join protests on Sunday. “Do not be deterred by tear gas, very soon they will run out of dollars to re-stock,” said one of the posts, asking people to protest even if the police try to stop it.
The island nation of 22 million people is mired in public debt. With the country’s foreign currency reserves dwindling, Sri Lankans are facing shortages of medicines, milk powder, cooking gas, kerosene and other essential items.
The government had said it is seeking a bailout from the International Monetary Fund and asked help from India and China.
India sends aid
On Saturday, India started dispatching 40,000 tonnes of rice to Sri Lanka, Reuters reported, citing officials.
The shipments of Indian rice could help Colombo reduce prices before the new year festival begins mid-April.
“Right now, only India can ship rice quickly,” an unidentified Mumbai-based dealer with a global trading firm told Reuters. “Other countries need weeks, India can deliver in days.”
On March 17, India, the world’s largest exporter of rice, had signed $1 billion line of credit to help Sri Lanka ease crippling shortages of essential items.
On Saturday, India also sent a consignment of 40,000 metric tonnes of diesel to Colombo. The diesel shipment is part of an additional $500 million line of credit for Sri Lanka.
How is the crisis impacting people?
Authorities have imposed 13-hour daily power cuts from Thursday due to shortage of fuel to operate power plants. The state electricity regulator extended Wednesday’s 10-hour power cut by another three hours.
Hundreds of bakeries in the country have shut down because of lack of cooking gas. Several state-run hospitals have stopped conducting surgeries.
The government has also indefinitely postponed school examinations for Classes 9, 10 and 11 because it does not have stocks on which to print question papers.