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The army and police patrolled the streets of the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo, as shops gradually opened on Saturday, the first day of a state of emergency in the face of growing unrest amid an unprecedented economic crisis.
President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa declared a state of emergency nationwide on Friday night. They are necessary to maintain public order, basic resources and services, he said in a statement.
Fuel shortages and shortages of other essentials have erupted as hundreds of protesters clashed with police and army outside Rajapakse’s home on Thursday and set fire to several police and military vehicles.
Police arrested 53 people and imposed a curfew in Colombo and surrounding areas on Friday.
Sri Lanka, with a population of 22 million, has frequent power outages of up to 13 hours a day as the government struggles to obtain foreign exchange to pay for fuel imports.
With the massive tax cuts promised by Rajapakse during the 2019 election campaign, the Kovit-19 epidemic has drained the country’s lucrative tourism sector and remittances from foreign workers, further affecting public funds.
The government said it was seeking a recovery package from the International Monetary Fund and was seeking new loans from China and India.
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