Sri Lankan leader declares state of emergency amid protests

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lanka’s president declared a state of emergency Friday amid widespread public protests demanding his resignation following the country’s worst economic crisis in recent memory.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa issued a decree declaring a state of emergency effective Friday.

Sri Lanka is on the brink of bankruptcy after announcing it was suspending foreign loan repayments and its usable foreign exchange reserves fell below $50 million. It has $7 billion in foreign loan repayments this year out of $25 billion to repay by 2026.

Rajapaksa’s announcement comes as protesters demonstrate near parliament while others continue to occupy the entrance to the president’s office, demanding that Rajapaksa and his powerful ruling family step down, blaming them for the economic crisis.

Similar protests have spread to other places, with people setting up camps opposite the prime minister’s residence and other towns across the country.

For several months, Sri Lankans have endured long queues to buy fuel, cooking gas, food and medicine, most of which come from abroad. Hard currency shortages have also hampered imports of raw materials for manufacturing and worsened inflation, which jumped to 18.7% in March.

As oil prices soar during the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, Sri Lanka’s fuel stocks are running low. Authorities have announced nationwide power cuts extending up to 7.5 hours a day because they cannot supply enough fuel to power stations.

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