Colombo, Sri Lanka ( Associated Press) – Defying a nationwide curfew, several hundred protesters in Sri Lanka continued to raise slogans against the government on Tuesday, a day after violent clashes that saw the resignation of the prime minister blamed Was with his brother. President, for driving the country into its worst economic crisis in decades.
Protesters stormed the entrance of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s office in the capital Colombo on the 32nd day, demanding that he follow in his brother’s footsteps and resign. The space outside Rajapaksa’s office has seen crowds of thousands for weeks but fell to a few hundred on Tuesday due to a tight curfew, killing four people in yesterday’s clashes.
A government decree issued on Monday night confirmed the resignation of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.,
On Tuesday, anti-government protesters raised slogans for the president’s resignation and rebuilt tents damaged in Monday’s attack.
One of the protesters, software engineer Chamath Boghawatta, said the government “has done a disgraceful act by bringing in people to provoke us. I don’t think people will tolerate their attempts to rule with the help of the military.”
“More people will join us. For how long are they going to rule the country under curfew? ” He asked.
The prime minister’s resignation came after violence erupted in front of Rajapaksa’s offices as his supporters hit protesters with sticks of wood and iron. Authorities swiftly deployed armed troops to several parts of the country and imposed a curfew until Wednesday.
The ambush by supporters immediately triggered anger and chaos, as people started attacking politicians of the ruling party. Over a dozen houses of ruling party leaders were ransacked and set ablaze.
At least four people, including a ruling party MLA, were killed and around 200 injured on Monday night.
“If they think they can stop a huge people’s struggle by destroying our tent, I think they got their answer last night itself,” said protester Charit Janapriya.
“What we lost were some tents and clothes,” Janapriya said. “But we have many more people than before.”
The South Asian island nation has been simmering for more than a month, as protests spread from the capital to the countryside. It has attracted people of all castes, religions and classes and has even seen a notable revolt from some Rajapaksa supporters, many of whom have spent weeks trying to spare the two brothers.
Analysts say pressure has mounted on President Rajapaksa to step down after his brother’s resignation, and the country’s economy has declined dramatically in recent weeks.,
Imports of everything from milk to fuel have declined, leading to severe food shortages and power outages. People are forced to stand in line for hours to buy essential items. Doctors warn of a shortage of life-saving drugs in hospitals, and the government has suspended payments At $7 billion in foreign debt due this year alone.
Rajapaksa initially said the crisis was not created by him, blaming it on global factors, such as the pandemic battering his tourism industry and the Russia-Ukraine conflict pushing up global oil prices. . But unable to escape public anger, both he and his brother have since admitted mistakes that have escalated the crisis, including admitting that they should demand an International Monetary Fund bailout as soon as possible. was needed.
In March, after citizens faced severe shortages of fuel, cooking gas and medicine for months already, the president reached out to the IMF. Negotiations are underway to set up a rescue plan, progress of which is dependent on negotiations on debt restructuring with creditors. But any long-term plan will take at least six months to complete.