Sri Lanka President Gotabaya Rajapaksa declared a state of emergency on Friday, the second time in less than two months, giving security forces sweeping powers to deal with escalating protests against the government.
Months-long of food, fuel, and pharmaceutical shortages and power outages have caused widespread agony, hardship, and distress among the 22 million Sri Lankans and sparked public anger and protests.
Protesters led by the Inter-University Students’ Federation marched from a nearby university to the parliament building located on a man-made lake island when riot police moved in and fired a barrage of tear gas on the students, followed by water cannons.
The police fired tear gas at protesters for the second time in a week to disperse the crowd.
On Friday, millions of workers also went on strike led by the Sri Lankan Trade Union Movement.
Privately owned buses were off the roads, and industrial workers demonstrated outside their factories, while black flags were raised across the country as an expression of anger against the government.
“We can pinpoint the policy blunders of the president that led to this very sorry state of our economy. He must go,” trade union leader Ravi Kumudesh said.
Meanwhile, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa insisted he would not step down despite escalating demonstrations, including the protest that camped outside his seafront office for nearly a month.
In April, Sri Lanka announced it was defaulting on its $51 billion foreign debt.
This week, Finance Minister Ali Sabry said the country would have to endure for at least two more years.
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