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Sunday, December 04, 2022

Sri Lankan police break up protest against president

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka ( Associated Press) — Police in Sri Lanka used tear gas and water cannons Saturday to disperse protesters trying to approach the president’s office to demand his resignation over the country’s ongoing economic crisis.

Protesters gathered on the 50th day of protests next to the official residence of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Police broke up the protest and briefly detained three people.

Sri Lanka is on the brink of bankruptcy after defaulting on its foreign debt and is facing acute shortages of essential goods such as cooking oil, fuel and medicine. The population has been forced to wait for hours in long lines to buy products and many leave empty-handed.

The country’s foreign exchange reserves have fallen to barely enough for two weeks of crucial imports.

Last month, the authorities announced the suspension of the payment of almost 7,000 million dollars of foreign debt to be paid this year. Sri Lanka must pay up to 25,000 million dollars until 2026. The total foreign debt of the Asian country is 51,000 million dollars.

The protesters point out that the main blame for the crisis lies with Rajapaksa and his family, whom they accuse of corruption and embezzlement.

Violence erupted across the country on May 9, when Rajapaksa supporters attacked participants in a peaceful protest. Nine people were killed, including a lawmaker from the ruling party, and ministers’ homes were set on fire. The violence nearly dismantled the Rajapaksa dynasty after the president’s brother, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, resigned from office.

Three of the president’s brothers and one of his nephews had already resigned from their cabinet posts.

New Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has said he will have an economic reform plan ready in two weeks to seek approval from the International Monetary Fund for a financial rescue package.

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