Sri Lanka President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Friday declared a state of emergency giving security forces sweeping powers for the second time in five weeks to deal with escalating anti-government protests, reported news agency AFP.
A spokesman for the president said he invoked the tough laws to "ensure public order" after trade unions staged a nationwide strike demanding his resignation over a worsening economic crisis.
Earlier in the day, trade unions launched a crippling island-wide strike to demand the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his government over its inability to tackle the economic meltdown which has caused unprecedented hardships to the public.
Sri Lanka's government has been facing a wave of protests around the country with an increasingly furious public demanding its resignation.
All trade unions of health, postal, port and other government services had joined the strike. However, several pro-ruling party trade unions declined to join.
Also, student activists warned to lay a siege to Parliament after trade unions' strike.
Thousands of student activists from the Inter University Students Federation (IUSF) blocked the main access road to the parliamentary complex since Thursday and carried on protests for almost 24 hours.
The police fired tear gas shells and used a water cannon on the protesters to disperse them.
The activists, calling for the resignation of President Rajapaksa and the government for their mishandling of the country's economy, vowed to return on May 17 when the assembly session reconvenes.
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.
Despite mounting pressure, President Rajapaksa and his elder brother and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa have refused to quit.
(With AFP and PTI inputs)