Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Tuesday revoked the state of emergency hours after his ruling coalition lost the majority in Parliament amid the escalating public unrest over an unprecedented economic crisis, reported Reuters.
The president had declared a state of emergency on April 1, a day after protestors tried to storm his home in Colombo city. Imposing emergency had given Rajapaksa sweeping powers to detain demonstrators and seize property, but protests seeking his dismissal had continued despite the order.
Earlier on Tuesday, 41 legislators quit Rajapaksa’s alliance. With this, Rajapaksa’s government has fewer than 113 members, which is needed to maintain a majority in the 225-member House.
After quitting the alliance, Sri Lanka Freedom Party leader Maithripala Sirisena said he was on the side of the people.
“There are endless shortages of essentials including fuel and cooking gas,” he added. “Hospitals are on the verge of closing because there are no medicines.”
The island nation of 22 million people is struggling to pay for imports of fuel and other goods because of a shortage of foreign exchange. The Opposition has also asked Rajapaksa to resign due to the country’s worsening shortages of essentials and prolonged power cuts.
As protests continued on Tuesday with demonstrators gathering outside Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s home in Tangalle, the police used water cannons and tear gas to disperse them.
On Sunday, Sri Lanka’s entire Cabinet, except Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa, had resigned en masse from their positions.
The prime minister’s son Namal Rajapaksa and his brothers Chamal Rajapaksa and Basil Rajapaksa were among the 26 departing Cabinet members. Basil Rajapaksa is the much-criticised finance minister. He was replaced by the Minister of Justice Ali Sabry.
However, Sabry too quit as the finance minister within a day he was appointed to the post.
Earlier this week, Sri Lanka had also declared a state of public health emergency due to severe shortage of medicines and equipment.
Government-run hospitals are running out of life-saving medicines due to a shortage of foreign exchange needed for imports. Several state-run hospitals have stopped conducting surgeries too.
The country is also facing a severe shortage of petrol, diesel, milk powder, cooking gas, kerosene and other essential items. The shortage of fuel has led to power cuts of up to 13 hours daily in the country.