Sri Lanka’s acting President Ranil Wickremesinghe declares fresh emergency

Sri Lanka’s acting President Ranil Wickremesinghe has declared a state of emergency in the crisis-ridden island nation in an effort to head off unrest ahead of a vote in parliament later this week to elect a new president.

Wickremesinghe announced the measure “in the interests of public security, the protection of public order and the maintenance of supplies and services essential to the life of the community,” according to a government notice released late on Sunday.

The specific legal provisions of the latest emergency are yet to be announced by the government but previous emergency regulations have been used to deploy the military to arrest and detain people, search private property and dampen public protests.

Sri Lanka’s beleaguered leaders have imposed a state of emergency several times since April, when mass protests started against the government’s handling of the economic crisis and a persistent shortage of essentials.

Wickremesinghe was sworn in as interim leader on Friday. He has promised to follow the constitution and establish law and order after months of protests over crippling fuel shortages and soaring prices of basic goods.

Sri Lanka’s parliament met on Saturday to begin the process of electing a president for the next five years.

Wickremesinghe, an ally of Rajapaksa, is a top contender to assume the presidency full-time. But protesters want him gone, raising the prospect of further unrest should he be elected.