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Sri Lanka declares curfew in capital

Protests in Sri Lanka have been raging over the government’s mishandling of the nation’s worst economic crisis since independence in 1948.
Ishara S. Kodikara | Afp | Getty Images

Sri Lanka has declared a curfew in the capital of Colombo that will last till 5am on Friday.

The government of acting president Ranil Wickremesinghe imposed the curfew at noon on Thursday, a day after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled to the Maldives to escape months of raging protests by Sri Lankans calling for his resignation.

The usual protest sites, however, were calm on Thursday, Reuters reported.

Rajapaksa appointed Wickremesinghe as acting president before leaving Sri Lanka in a military plane. That came in the wake of protests over the government’s mishandling of the nation’s worst economic crisis since independence in 1948.

Angry protesters have stormed both Rajapaksa’s palace and Wickremesinghe’s office over the past several days. Though Rajapaksa declared his intention to resign, he has not yet done so.

Sri Lanka’s Parliament is expected to name a new full-time president on July 20. The opposition’s choice is its main leader Sajith Premadasa, the son of former President Ranasinghe Premadasa.

Speaking before the curfew was announced, senior fellow at the Washington-based Millennium Project Asanga Abeyagoonasekera told CNBC that though the military has been on the side of protesters so far, things could change.

“It can lead in a different direction,” he said, warning that there could even be a coup in Sri Lanka, as in Myanmar.

Need for fresh faces

Abeyagoonasekera told CNBC’S “Squawk Box Asia” that the protesters want “fresh faces” in politics. He said the people want elections to be held after a period of stability is established. “[There should be] an interim government with all parties coming together,” he said.

Speaking earlier on a day of rapid developments, senior research associate at think tank ODI Global, Ganeshan Wignaraja, told CNBC’S “Street Signs Asia” that Parliament will elect a new president on July 20.

Wignaraja also described a possible bailout program from the International Monetary Fund, with which Sri Lanka is holding talks, as “fairly mild.” He said such a program would involve raising interest rates to battle inflation and control expenditure, adding that he hopes normalcy will be restored to the economy in 2023.

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