Sri Lankan govt defends imposition of Emergency

Sri Lankan govt defends imposition of Emergency

Colombo: The Sri Lankan government on Saturday defended imposing a state of emergency, saying it was required to tackle the unprecedented economic crisis plaguing the country, even as President Gotabaya Rajapaksa faced flak from the Opposition and foreign envoys for his decision which gives security forces power to crack down on peaceful protests.

In a special Cabinet meeting on Friday, the embattled president declared the state of emergency with effect from Friday midnight. This is the second emergency declared in just over a month.

The announcement came as student activists kept the Parliament under siege since Thursday night.

The students blocked the main entrance to the complex demanding the resignation of the government for its inability to handle the ongoing economic crisis marked by shortages of essentials.

In a statement on Saturday, the Government Information Department said, "Sri Lanka is currently facing the worst economic crisis and political instability ever after Independence due to manifold reasons both short and long-term. The common perception is that several reforms in the sectors of political, economic and social fabric should be carried out in-depth to escape from this grave situation." "Priority among them is to manage the shortage of foreign exchange within the shortest possible time and restore the supply of goods and services, the statement added.

The government said discussions are ongoing with the multi-lateral institutions, including the International Monetary Fund, to obtain financial assistance and restructure outstanding debt.

"Political stability and peace in society are two major conditions that are demanded in building confidence and strength to make such programs a success," the statement said, explaining the need for the emergency.

Sri Lanka is currently in the throes of unprecedented economic turmoil since its independence from Britain in 1948. The crisis is caused in part by a lack of foreign currency, which has meant that the country cannot afford to pay for imports of staple foods and fuel, leading to acute shortages and very high prices.

Thousands of demonstrators have hit the streets across Sri Lanka since April 9, as the government ran out of money for vital imports; prices of

essential commodities have skyrocketed and there are acute shortages in fuel, medicines and electricity supply.

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