The government authorizes the military and police to detain people without warrants the day after the deadly violence and the prime minister’s resignation.
Sri Lanka has given emergency powers to its army and police to arrest people without warrants, after a day of violence who killed seven people and injured more than 200 in the violence provoked by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa resign.
As the Indian Ocean nation grapples with the worst economic crisis in its history, thousands of protesters had curfew defied to attack government figures, setting fire to homes, shops and businesses belonging to ruling party legislators and provincial politicians.
Despite sporadic reports of unrest, the situation calmed down on Tuesday, police spokesman Nihal Thalduwa said, adding that some 200 people were injured in the violence that led to an island-wide curfew until 7 a.m. (01:30 GMT) on Wednesday.
The government of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the prime minister’s younger brother, outlined sweeping powers for the army and police to detain and interrogate people without warrants.
The army can detain people for up to 24 hours before handing them over to police, while the forces can search any private property, including private vehicles, the government said in a bulletin notice on Tuesday.
“Anyone arrested by a police officer will be taken to the nearest police station,” he said, setting a 24-hour deadline for the armed forces to do the same.
“There is a strong military presence. On our way, we were stopped at multiple checkpoints manned by the air force, some by the army and navy,” Al Jazeera’s Minelle Fernandez said in her report from Colombo on Tuesday.
Some analysts raised concerns about the potential for abuse of the emergency measures.
“In a situation where there is both a state of emergency and a curfew, who can monitor to ensure that these regulations are not abused?” said Bhavani Fonseka of the Colombo-based think tank Center for Policy Alternatives.
The president had already declared a state of emergency on Friday as the protests intensified.
The attacks on government figures came in apparent retaliation for an incident just hours before Rajapaksa’s resignation.
Rajapaksa spoke to hundreds of supporters gathered at his official residence on Monday following reports that he was considering resigning.
After his statements, many of them, armed with iron bars, stormed a camp of anti-government protesters, beating them and setting their shops on fire.
Police used water cannons and tear gas to disperse skirmishers, having initially done little to contain government supporters, witnesses told the Reuters news agency.
Thousands of people took to the streets to celebrate Rajapaksa’s resignation, but the mood quickly turned tense.
The protesters tried break down doors from Temple Trees, his residence in central Colombo, where broken glass and discarded shoes littered the surrounding streets on Tuesday after some of the night’s worst clashes.
Military personnel patrolled the area, where eight burning vehicles lay partially submerged in a lake. Discarded files and smashed equipment littered the looted offices of government officials.
Sri Lanka’s unprecedented economic crisis follows a pandemic that hit major tourism earnings, leaving the government to grapple with rising oil prices and the effects of populist tax cuts.
It has sought assistance from multilateral lenders such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, as well as Asian giants India and China.
Former Finance Minister Ali Sabry, who resigned on Monday along with the rest of Rajapaksa’s cabinet, said usable foreign exchange reserves amount to just $50 million.
Shortages of fuel, food and medicine have brought thousands to the streets in more than a month of protests that had been mostly peaceful until this week.