Colombo, May 6: The Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Friday declared a State of Emergency in the island, the President’s Media Division said. It came into force at midnight of May 6.
The government is yet to give an explanation for the step, but it appears that it is highly concerned about the “Gota Go Home” and the “Rajapaksas Go Home” agitations turning violent. Indeed they have become violent in some places with the police being forced to use tear gas and water cannons to disburse mobs.
The agitators not only blocked the gates of the Presidential Secretariat but also the Prime Minister’s official residence. Then they started blocking the roads to parliament preventing MPs from going in and going out. The mobs have been demanding that all the 225 MPs should resign and go home.
Initially, the agitators were apolitical young men and women mostly from the well-heeled families. They were protesting against gross maladministration and bad decisions which had landed the country in a mess with no foreign exchange to repay debts or even import essentials.
For the most part, the ‘Gota Go Home’ agitation looked more like a youth carnival with participants indulging in creative expressions of political thoughts and demands. But lately, new groups with a different agenda, had infiltrated the agitation and violence was fomented. A time came when the patience of the police began to wear thin.
In the latest incident, tear gas and water cannons were used to disperse protesters near the parliament entry road at Polduwa Junction in Battaramulla. The Inter-University Students’ Federation (ISUF) had been staging a protest at the entrance to the parliament near the Diyatha Uyana in Battamulla since Thursday, demanding that the President and the government step down. It was reported that the students were continuing to protest in the area despite the use of tear gas and water cannons by the police.
With the declaration of the State of Emergency, the government acquires a wide range of powers to control agitations and also to put troublesome elements behind bars.
PM Pressed to Resign.
Earlier in the day, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, with the backing of several Cabinet Ministers, requested Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa to resign so that an all-party government could be formed to tackle the unprecedented economic problems confronting the country.
But some cabinet ministers did not back this move. Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa himself has not reacted yet. Earlier he had said that he would not quit on his own volition, but would go if the President asked him to go or sacked him.
The Prime Minister feels that he has been made the scapegoat for the mess which the President had created by taking a series of disastrous decisions arbitrarily. In an interview with Daily Mirror, the Prime Minister had said that he would be happy to sit in the opposition benches in parliament. In other words, he was saying that he would be an opponent of the government and lead a rebel group of the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) in and out of parliament.
Political circles expect Rajapaksa to announce his resignation on Monday. Parliament had been adjourned after turmoil and is to meet again on May 17.