President Gotabaya Rajapaksa declared a state of emergency from midnight amid protests against a massive economic crisis that has crippled the island nation with external debt

Colombo – Sri Lanka President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Friday (06 May) declared a state of emergency giving security forces sweeping powers for the second time in five weeks to deal with escalating anti-government protests, Indian private TV channel NDTV reported.

A spokesman for the President said he invoked the tough laws to “ensure public order” after trade unions staged a nationwide strike Friday demanding his resignation over a worsening economic crisis.

Earlier on Friday, the police again fired tear gas and water cannon at students trying to storm Sri Lanka’s parliament as the country was brought to a halt by a trade union strike demanding the government step down.

Months of blackouts and acute shortages of food, fuel and pharmaceuticals have caused widespread suffering across the island nation of 22 million people.

Public anger has sparked sustained protests demanding the government’s resignation over its mismanagement of the crisis, Sri Lanka’s worst since independence in 1948.

Thousands of student protesters had been camped on the road leading to the legislature, which is on a man-made island on a lake in the capital Colombo, since Thursday (05 May).

Officers fired a barrage of tear gas followed by water cannon from two trucks, but the crowd quickly reassembled behind police barricades set up to block access to the parliament.

It was the second time police tried to disperse the crowd with tear gas, after an earlier unsuccessful attempt on Thursday afternoon.

Millions of workers stayed off the job today in a strike organised by the country’s trade union movement, with all but one scheduled train service cancelled. Privately owned buses were off the roads while industrial workers demonstrated outside their factories and black flags were hung across the country in an expression of anger against the government.

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