Government Policy

Sri Lanka parliament reconvenes after state of emergency

Sri Lanka's parliament will convene

Tuesday in its first session since a state of emergency was imposed as the

country grapples with protests and mounting demands for the president's

resignation over a worsening economic crisis.

Severe shortages of food, fuel and other essentials -- along with record

inflation and crippling power cuts -- have inflicted widespread misery across

the island nation, which is enduring its most painful downturn since

independence from Britain in 1948.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa's once-powerful SLPP ruling coalition suffered

a string of defections ahead of the parliamentary session, undermining his

ability to ratify a state of emergency imposed on Friday to quell the growing

public protests.

The state of emergency is due to expire on Thursday next week unless it is

ratified in a parliamentary vote.

As parliament reconvenes, the speaker is obliged to officially inform MPs

that the state of emergency has been declared, raising the prospect of

opposition demands it be put to a vote immediately -- which the government

would likely lose.

All opposition parties and even some lawmakers from Rajapaksa's own party

have announced their intention to vote against extending the ordinance.

"Our party no longer has a mandate to govern," former minister Nimal Lanza

told reporters in the town of Negombo, adding that about 50 lawmakers

previously allied with the government would instead sit as independents.

Every member of Sri Lanka's cabinet except the president and his elder

brother, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, resigned late on Sunday.

But an overture to opposition parties requesting their participation in a

unity government was swiftly rejected the next day.

"We will not be joining this government," Eran Wickramaratne of the main

opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) party told AFP. "The Rajapaksa family

must step down."

Boisterous demonstrations have spread across the country of 22 million

despite emergency laws allowing troops to detain participants and a weekend

curfew that lapsed on Monday morning.

Crowds have attempted to storm the homes of over a dozen government figures

including the president's house in Colombo, where protesters torched the

vehicles of security forces, who responded by firing rubber bullets and tear

gas

However, Wickramaratne told AFP on Monday that the opposition would not be

voting for the emergency orders. "We'll see what happens tomorrow, it is

going to be a decisive day."

A critical lack of foreign currency has left Sri Lanka struggling to

service its ballooning $51 billion foreign debt, with the pandemic torpedoing

vital revenue from tourism and remittances.

The result has seen unprecedented food and fuel shortages along with record

inflation and crippling power cuts, with no sign of an end to the economic

woes.

Economists say Sri Lanka's crisis has been exacerbated by government

mismanagement, years of accumulated borrowing and ill-advised tax cuts.

The government plans to negotiate an IMF bailout, but talks are yet to

Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)