Sri Lanka gave emergency powers on Tuesday to its military and police to detain people without warrants, after a day of clashes that killed seven people and injured more than 200, in violence that prompted Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa to resign.
Sri Lanka’s Defence Ministry on Tuesday said those found damaging public property or harming others could be shot, after a day of clashes that killed eight.
A protest began in front of Sri Lanka’s Trincomalee Naval Base after reports emerged that former prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and some of his family members were there after leaving the official residence in Colombo, a media report said.
As the Indian Ocean nation battles its worst economic crisis in history, thousands of protesters had defied curfew to attack government figures, setting ablaze homes, shops and businesses belonging to ruling party lawmakers and provincial politicians.
Despite sporadic reports of unrest, the situation calmed by Tuesday, said police spokesman Nihal Thalduwa, adding that about 200 people had also been injured in violence that led to an islandwide curfew until 7:00 am today.
The government of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the younger brother of the prime minister, outlined broad powers for the military and police to detain and question people without arrest warrants.
The military can detain people for up to 24 hours before handing them to police, while private property can be searched by force, including private vehicles, the government said in a gazette notification on Tuesday.
“Any person arrested by a police officer shall be taken to the nearest police station,” it said, fixing a 24-hour deadline for the armed forces to do the same.
Some analysts expressed concern over the potential for abuse of the emergency measures.
“In a situation where there is both a state of emergency and curfew who can monitor to ensure these regulations are not abused?” said Bhavani Fonseka, of the Centre for Policy Alternatives think tank based in Colombo.
The attacks on government figures came in reprisal for an incident just hours before Rajapaksa’s resignation.
Rajapaksa spoke to hundreds of supporters gathered at his official residence on Monday.
After his remarks, many of them, armed with iron bars, stormed a camp of those protesting against the government, beating them and setting fire to their tents.
Police fired water cannon and tear gas to disperse the skirmishers, after having initially done little to hold back the government supporters, according to witnesses.
Protesters and a key trade group in Sri Lanka called for a new government to take control as the president called for calm.