Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Sri Lankan police fired tear gas at protesters near parliament

Colombo, Sri Lanka ( Associated Press) – Sri Lankan police tearful Friday to disperse student protesters who were criticizing lawmakers for not ousting President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his government over the country’s worst economic crisis in recent memory. Used gas and water shower.

The student-led protest began on Thursday when the government-backed deputy speaker was elected by a comfortable margin in parliament, which was seen as a significant victory for the ruling coalition. Separately, protesters have been demanding the release of Rajapaksa and his powerful ruling family at the entrance of the presidential office in the capital Colombo for 28 days.

Shops, offices and schools remained closed across the country on Friday amid widespread protests against the government, and transport came to a near standstill.

“People have been asking this government to go home for a month. They did not wake up demanding it,” said student leader Vasantha Mudlige. “They have faced huge problems which has led to this demand.”

“Discussions are going on inside this thieves’ stronghold called Parliament, and none of the people’s issues are discussed there. So people decide that Parliament does not reflect their sentiments.”

Factories, banks and government offices also remained closed, employees demonstrated in front of them. Black flags were displayed at shops and many protesters wore black T-shirts, calling on trade unions and other civic organizations.

Protesters also hung undergarments by the side of the road leading to Parliament and raised slogans: “That’s all we have!”

The Indian Ocean island nation is on the verge of bankruptcy and has suspended payments on its foreign debts. Its economic crisis has led to a political crisis, with the government facing opposition and a no-confidence motion in parliament.

Sri Lanka was to pay $7 billion of its external debt this year, of which about $25 billion will have to be repaid by 2026. Its total external debt is $51 billion.

Sri Lanka’s finance minister announced earlier this week that the country’s usable foreign reserves had fallen below $50 million.

For several months, Sri Lankans have faced long lines to buy fuel, cooking gas, food and medicine, most of them from abroad. Hard currency crunch has also hampered imports of raw materials for manufacturing and worsened inflation, which rose to 18.7% in March.

As oil prices rise during the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Sri Lanka’s fuel reserves are running out. Authorities have announced nationwide power cuts of up to 7 1/2 hours a day because they cannot supply enough fuel to power generating stations.

Protesters occupying the entrance of the presidential office are demanding the resignation of the president, his elder brother Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and other powerful members of Rajapaksa’s family. Similar protests have spread to other places, with people setting up camps in front of the prime minister’s residence and other cities across the country.

So far, the Rajapaksa brothers have resisted calls to resign, although three of the five Rajapaksa, who were MPs, stepped down from their cabinet positions in mid-April.

Protesters who have thronged the streets since the march blamed Rajapaksa and his family – who have dominated almost every aspect of life in Sri Lanka over the past 20 years – for the crisis.

Sri Lanka is in talks with the International Monetary Fund for an immediate financing facility as well as a long-term rescue plan, but was told its progress would depend on negotiations on debt restructuring with creditors.

Any long-term planning will take at least six months to begin with.


Nation World News Desk
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