Sri Lanka's top human rights body has summoned the country's top brass, including the Secretary to the President and the Secretary to the Ministry of Defence, to appear before it on Monday to clarify the reasons for the imposition of the state of emergency.
In a special Cabinet meeting on Friday, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa declared a state of emergency with effect from Friday midnight. This is the second time that an emergency was declared in Sri Lanka in just over a month as the island nation was in the grip of the worst economic crisis.
The announcement came amid weeks of protests demanding the resignation of the President and the government, blaming the powerful Rajapaksa clan for the mishandling of the island nation's economy, which is already upended by the pandemic.
Rohini Marasinghe, (Rtd) Supreme Court Judge who is Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL), said that the summons were issued to the top brass to clarify the reasons for the imposition of the state of emergency.
She also said that water and tear gas attacks on protesters near the Parliament would be raised during the inquiry.
The Secretary to the President, the Secretary to the Ministry of Defence, and the Inspector General of Police are scheduled to appear before the HRCSL on Monday.
The HRCSL on Saturday requested the government to explain to the public the reasons for declaring a state of emergency as the protests were largely peaceful and within normal police operations.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has faced flak from the Opposition and foreign envoys for his decision, which gives security forces sweeping powers to arbitrarily arrest and detain people.
Sri Lanka is currently in the throes of unprecedented economic turmoil since its independence from Britain in 1948.
The crisis is caused in part by a lack of foreign currency, which has meant that the country cannot afford to pay for imports of staple foods and fuel, leading to acute shortages and very high prices.
Thousands of demonstrators have hit the streets across Sri Lanka since April 9, as the government ran out of money for vital imports; prices of essential commodities have skyrocketed and there are acute shortages in fuel, medicines and electricity supply.