The acting president declares a curfew to rid the nation of a ‘fascist threat.’


COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lanka’s acting president declared a state of emergency on Wednesday, pledging to retake a suite of government buildings that protesters have overrun in recent days, including his own office.

In his first address as acting president, a speech broadcast on television, Ranil Wickremesinghe said the order would give security forces sweeping powers to detain anyone who violates a nationwide, 24-hour curfew.

Legal experts said that the state of emergency was technically illegal because it had not been published in Sri Lanka’s official gazette.

Mr. Wickremesinghe, who has not been seen in public since the weekend protests, called some of the protesters a “fascist threat.”

He was named acting president on Wednesday, after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled with his wife to the Maldives overnight.

Thousands of demonstrators, who have demanded that both Mr. Rajapaksa and Mr. Wickremesinghe step down, stormed Mr. Wickremesinghe’s office on Wednesday as the police and military fired tear gas. The protesters took over the site and now control the complex.

On Saturday, protesters entered the presidential residence and office and set fire to Mr. Wickremesinghe’s private home.

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