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Crisis-hit Sri Lanka declares emergency

Protesters protest outside the Sri Lankan president's house. (Photo: BBC)

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s president declared a state of emergency for the second time in five weeks, giving security forces sweeping powers amid a nationwide strike by angry demonstrators who blame him for an unprecedented economic crisis.

A spokesman for President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said he invoked the tough laws to “ensure public order” after shops closed and public transport was halted Friday, bringing the South Asian island nation of 22 million people to a standstill after weeks of unrest.

Earlier Friday, police used tear gas and water cannon to disperse students attempting to storm the national parliament demanding Rajapaksa resign.

The emergency gives sweeping powers to security forces to arrest and detain suspects for long periods without judicial supervision.

It also allows the deployment of troops to maintain law and order in addition to police.

The spokesman said the laws will go into effect from midnight Friday.

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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 escalated since then, fuelling Sri Lanka’s worst crisis since independence in 1948.

The new emergency declaration came as thousands of demonstrators remained outside Rajapaksa’s sea-front office, where they have been protesting since April 9, and smaller groups also tried to storm homes of other key government politicians.

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