COLOMBO — Sri Lanka’s government imposed a weekend curfew on Saturday even as hundreds of lawyers urged President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to revoke a state of emergency to ensure that freedom of speech and peaceful assembly are respected under the country’s economic crisis.
“Under the powers given to the president, curfew has been imposed countrywide from 6 p.m. (1230 GMT) on Saturday to 6 a.m. (0030 GMT) on Monday,” the government’s information department said in a statement.
Rajapaksa on Friday invoked stringent laws to tackle growing unrest in the unprecedented crisis. In the past, a state of emergency order allowed the military to arrest and detain suspects without warrants.
The current restrictions were not immediately clear, said a rights’ lawyer.
Bhavani Fonseka, a senior researcher at the nonprofit Colombo Centre for Policy Alternatives rights group said regulations defining the president’s emergency powers have yet to be issued.
Shops opened and traffic was normal, while police remained stationed at some petrol stations.
The Indian Ocean island nation of 22 million people is grappling with rolling blackouts for up to 13 hours a day as the government scrambles to secure foreign exchange to pay for fuel imports..
Rajapaksa said the state of emergency was necessary to protect public order and maintain essential supplies and services.
The order has raised fears that the government could resort to a crackdown to quell protests.
“There has been a failure to understand the aspirations of the people and to empathize with the suffering of the people of the country,” the…
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