COLOMBO (Sri Lanka) -- A curfew was imposed in Sri Lanka's capital city and its surrounding areas Friday. This came a day ahead of a planned protest calling for the resignations the president and prime minister. The economic crisis has resulted in severe shortages of essential goods, causing people to lose their livelihoods.
Police used tear gas and water cannons hours before the curfew announcement to disperse thousands protesting students in black clothing, waving anti-government slogans, and holding banners that said "Enough! Now Go!"
Protesters and others have claimed that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was responsible for the current economic crisis. It is the worst since 1948, when the country gained independence. They also blame Ranil Wickremesinghe for failing to fulfill his promises to end the shortages, which he assumed as prime minister just two months ago.
On Saturday, thousands of protesters from both the civic and opposition movements will be in Colombo. The curfew was announced by police at 9 p.m. It will continue until further notice in Colombo, its suburbs.
Critics of the curfew announcement came from the government opposition and the Bar Association of Sri Lanka. They said that the curfew was "blatantly illegal" and violated the fundamental rights.
According to the bar association, police were asked by the association to withdraw the "illegal order" that imposed the curfew.
Sajith Premadasa, Opposition leader, called curfew "a fraud."
"Get out on the streets tomorrow. Join the people and resist the dictatorship to make democracy triumphant. He tweeted, "Yes we can,"
The U.S. Julie Chung, U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka asked for peaceful protests and asked that the military and police give peaceful protestors "the space and security they need to do so".
Sri Lanka is close to bankruptcy and has stopped repayments on $7 billion of foreign debt due in this year. It will have to repay more than $5 billion each year until 2026. It is almost out of foreign reserves and cannot import fuel, food, cooking gas, or medicine.
Due to a lack of fuel, power stations have been experiencing extended power outages every day. To buy fuel or gas, people must wait in long lines. India extended credit lines to India to purchase fuel and other necessities. This is how the country survived.
The economic crisis has caused inflation to spike and essential prices have soared. This has had a devastating impact on the poor and vulnerable.
Schools have been closed for weeks due to power and fuel shortages. The government has also asked all state employees to work remotely, except those who are essential service workers.
Wickremesinghe stated this week that negotiations with the International Monetary Fund are ongoing to find a bailout package for Sri Lanka. However, he noted that it is difficult because Sri Lanka's economy is insolvent. He had earlier stated that the country's economy was "collapsed."
Political upheaval has been triggered by the economic crisis, which has led to widespread anti-government protests. Protesters blocked major roads that supply fuel and some residents fought for limited stock.
Protesters have been occupying the presidential office entrance in Colombo for almost three months, demanding his resignation. They accuse him, his powerful family (including several siblings who held previous Cabinet positions), of causing the crisis through corruption, misrule, and other means.
Months of protests almost brought down the Rajapaksa political family that has ruled Sri Lanka for most the past 20 years.
Rajapaksa's brother, one of whom was the prime minister, resigned last month. Two other brothers and a nephew had resigned from their Cabinet posts earlier.
Although President Rajapaksa admitted that he didn't take the necessary steps to prevent the economic collapse from happening, he has refused to resign. If they do not resign, it is almost impossible to remove presidents from office under the constitution.