Sri Lankan Economic Crisis

Sri Lankans storm Presidential Palace in Colombo as economic crisis deepens


Colombo ~ Sri Lanka
A protestor demonstrates outside Sri Lanka president's home as the country's unprecedented economic crisis worsens Photograph: Ishara S Kodikara/AFP/Getty Images

Hundreds of people attempted to attack the home of Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Still, the protest turned violent, with at least one man badly injured, as citizens criticized the government's handling of the country's crippling economic crisis.

Security personnel fired into the crowd – it was unclear if they used live rounds or rubber bullets – and used tear gas and water cannon to disperse the activists, calling for Rajapaksa's resignation.

Protesters set fire to an army bus and a police car placed across the lane leading to Rajapaksa's residence in Colombo's Mirihana residential quarter. Additionally, they collapsed a neighbor's wall and attacked officers and troops with bricks.

According to government sources, Rajapaksa was not at home throughout the protests, but military leaders convened to discuss the problem.

Following the incident, the capital was placed under an indefinite curfew. After four hours of protesting, the area remained closed to automobiles.

"I am unable to return home because our neighborhood has been cordoned off," one resident told AFP. "The public is clamoring for the president and his family to resign."

The 22 million-strong south Asian nation is experiencing its worst downturn since independence, exacerbated by a severe shortage of foreign currency to pay for even the most basic goods.

According to officials and media accounts, diesel — the primary fuel for buses and commercial vehicles – was unavailable at stations around the island on Thursday, paralyzing public transportation.

Unidentified social media activists organized the gathering, but their ire was directed at Rajapaksa and his family.

A private television network's live broadcast of the demonstration was abruptly cut short due to what journalists described as government coercion.

However, videos published on social media showed men and women screaming "lunatic, lunatic, go home" and demanding the resignation of all members of the Rajapaksa family.

Mahinda, the president's eldest brother, serves as prime minister, while Basil, the president's younger brother, has the finance portfolio. Chamal, the elder brother, is the agricultural minister, while Namal, the nephew, is the sports minister.

Diesel shortages have prompted indignation across Sri Lanka in recent days. Still, before Thursday's events, protests had primarily taken place in towns and were not directed at any significant leader.

"We are siphoning fuel from buses that are being repaired in the garage and using it to operate serviceable vehicles," Transport Minister Dilum Amunugama explained.

Private bus owners – who account for two-thirds of the country's fleet – have reported that they are already out of oil and that even skeletal services may be impossible after Friday.

The state electricity monopoly announced Thursday that it had imposed a 13-hour power outage — the longest in history – due to a shortage of diesel for generators.

Reservoirs, which supply almost a third of electricity demand via hydroelectric facilities, were also dangerously low.

Operators reported that the electricity rationing also disrupted mobile phone base stations, citing a lack of diesel for their standby generators.

Numerous state-run hospitals have ceased operations due to a shortage of life-saving medications.

The administration has stated that it seeks assistance from the International Monetary Fund while also requesting further loans from India and China.

According to IMF spokesperson Gerry Rice, such negotiations should begin "in the coming days" in Washington, with Sri Lanka's finance minister anticipated in the US capital.

Publish : 2022-04-01 08:30:00

Give Your Comments