Sri Lanka police fired water cannons and tear gas, and arrested five members of a student organisation to quell an anti-government protest that erupted in the crisis-hit island nation on Thursday, 18 August, the day the state of emergency imposed by President Ranil Wickremesinghe elapsed.
Sri Lanka is in the midst of an unprecedented economic crisis that has led to severe shortages of fuel and other essentials.
In July, Wickremesinghe imposed a state of emergency after his predecessor Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled the country and resigned from his post following massive anti-government protests over the government's mishandling of the economy.
The state of emergency elapsed on midnight Wednesday, 17 August, and Wickremesinghe said he would not extend it as the situation in the country had stabilised and protests have petered out.
On Thursday, members of a student organisation named Inter University Student's Federation (IUSF) staged a protest from Lipton Circus in central Colombo, before police intervened by firing water cannons and tear gas at them.
The crackdown was followed with the arrest of five members of IUSF. The convener of IUSF, Wasantha Mudalige, and four other student activists were arrested by the police, according to news portal newsfirst.lk.
The emergency protocols empower security officials to detain suspects for long periods and conduct searches without issuing warrants.
Wickremesinghe was elected Sri Lanka's eighth president last month after his predecessor Rajapaksa fled to Singapore after irate protesters stormed his official residence and occupied key government buildings.
On 9 July, in remarkable scenes of a country in meltdown, anti-government protesters also set Wickremesinghe's private residence at Cambridge Place here on fire.
Wickremesinghe has been severely criticised by the West and several rights groups over the emergency protocols.
Sri Lanka needs about USD 5 billion in the next six months to cover basic necessities for its citizens, who have been struggling with long queues, worsening shortages of essentials and frequent power cuts.
The island nation owes USD 51 billion in foreign debt, of which USD 28 billion must be paid by 2027. The country's inflation surged to 60.8 per cent in July, up from 54.6 per cent in June, the crisis-hit country's statistics department Colombo Consumer Price Index has said, as food and fuel remained scarce amid dwindling foreign exchange reserves.
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