Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has declared a state of emergency, giving wider powers to the military amid increasing demonstrations against the government, a spokesman for the president’s office says.
The declaration gives powers to the military to arrest and detain people and to control public protest, instead of just the police having such authority.
The move came as a general strike across Sri Lanka on Friday crippled schools, government services and trading, with tens of thousands taking part in street protests demanding Mr Rajapaksa and his government step down.
Black flags were hoisted in towns as demonstrations took place across the country while attendance in public offices, private sector offices and schools dropped sharply, government officials said.
Train services also came to a complete halt.
More than 3000 workers from the country’s main export processing zone close to the capital stopped work and joined a protest.
A student demonstration with about 3000 participants outside parliament was dispersed after a tense situation.
Long queues formed outside fuel stations across the country.
Protests have continued across Sri Lanka for the past month, including one outside the president’s office in Colombo demanding that the president and his brother, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, step down as the country continues to face fuel, medicine and gas shortages amid a rise in the cost of living.
Sri Lanka has run short of the US dollars required to import fuel, gas, medicine and essential food items.
The government has turned to the International Monetary Fund, Asian Development Bank, World Bank, India and China for assistance.