Sri Lanka police fire tear gas at anti-government protesters

Protesters blame Rajapaksa for the economic woes and have occupied the entrance to his office for three months.

July 09, 2022 01:06 pm | Updated 06:48 pm IST - COLOMBO:

A demonstrator throws back a tear gas grenade towards police members as police use tear gas and water cannons to disperse demonstrators near President’s residence during a protest demanding the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, amid the country’s economic crisis, in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

A demonstrator throws back a tear gas grenade towards police members as police use tear gas and water cannons to disperse demonstrators near President’s residence during a protest demanding the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, amid the country’s economic crisis, in Colombo, Sri Lanka. | Photo Credit: Reuters

Sri Lankan police fired tear gas on July 9 at protesters demanding that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his government resign over the island nation's worst economic crisis in recent memory.

Thousands of protesters carrying Sri Lankan flags rode on the relatively few vehicles on the roads due to an acute fuel shortage, while others rode bicycles and many walked to protest sites in the capital, Colombo, from the suburbs after police lifted an overnight curfew.

Protesters blame Rajapaksa for the economic woes and have occupied the entrance to his office for three months.

Sri Lanka's Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said last month that the country's economy has collapsed. The government's negotiations with the International Monetary Fund have been complex because it has now entered negotiations as a bankrupt state.

In April, Sri Lanka announced it is suspending repaying foreign loans due to a foreign currency shortage. Its total foreign debt amounts to $51 billion of which it must repay $28 billion by the end of 2027.

Police imposed a curfew in Colombo and several other main urban areas on Friday night but withdrew it on Saturday morning amid objections by lawyers and opposition politicians who called it illegal.

Riot police and army personnel are deployed in the city, and the area surrounding the President's official residence is heavily barricaded.

U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung on Friday asked people to protest peacefully and called for the military and police “to grant peaceful protesters the space and security to do so.” “Chaos & force will not fix the economy or bring the political stability that Sri Lankans need right now,” Ms. Chung said in a tweet.

The economic crisis has led to a heavy shortage of essentials such as fuel, cooking gas and medicines, forcing people to stand in long lines to buy the limited supplies.

Months of protests have nearly dismantled the Rajapaksa political dynasty that has ruled Sri Lanka for most of the past two decades. One of Rajapaksa’s brothers Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned as Prime Minister last month, and two other brothers and a nephew quit their Cabinet posts earlier. President Rajapaksa has held on to power.

Mr. Wickremesinghe took over as Prime Minister in May and protests temporarily waned in the hope he could find cash for the country's urgent needs but people now want him to resign saying he has failed to fulfill his promises.

Top News Today

Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in

Comments

Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.