Colombo – AFP:
Sri Lanka’s acting President Ranil Wickremesinghe has extended a state of emergency as a parliamentary election to choose a new president from one of the country’s leading candidates.
Wickremesinghe automatically became acting president after Gotabaya Rajapaksa resigned after fleeing Singapore last week.
The state of emergency allows security forces to arrest and detain suspects and allows the president to take measures that repeal existing laws to counter any disruption. He said a state of emergency had been imposed, but parliament did not meet to approve the declaration as required, and Wickremesinghe extended it from Monday “in the interest of public safety”. Police and the military have stepped up security measures ahead of Wednesday’s vote to elect a president to lead the country for the remainder of Rajapaksa’s presidential term, which expires in November 2024.
Wickremesinghe, a six-time prime minister, has the support of the Rajapaksa party for the presidency. The former president was forced to flee when thousands of protesters stormed his official residence after months of demonstrations across the country, demanding his resignation due to the economic crisis.
The population of 22 million has been facing an alarming shortage of basic materials since late last year, as the country no longer has foreign exchange to finance its basic imports. Sri Lanka defaulted on its $51 billion of foreign debt in mid-April, and talks are underway with the International Monetary Fund aimed at approving a rescue plan.