Sri Lanka economic crisis | 45 arrested; brief curfew imposed outside President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s residence

Twelve-hour power cuts are scheduled in Sri Lanka on Friday, as the country struggles to cope with the acute fuel shortage.

Updated - April 01, 2022 06:57 pm IST

Published - April 01, 2022 12:27 pm IST - Colombo:

Demonstrators shout slogans as they gather outside the Sri Lankan President’s home to call for his stepping down as the country’s unprecedented economic crisis worsened in Colombo, on March 31, 2022.

Demonstrators shout slogans as they gather outside the Sri Lankan President’s home to call for his stepping down as the country’s unprecedented economic crisis worsened in Colombo, on March 31, 2022. | Photo Credit: AFP

At least 45 people were arrested and a curfew briefly imposed in most parts of Colombo city after hundreds of protesters gathered outside the residence of Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, demanding his resignation for failing to address the worst economic crisis in the island nation.

A foreign exchange crunch in Sri Lanka has led to a shortage of essential goods such as fuel, cooking gas, and power cuts that last up to 13 hours a day. Twelve-hour power cuts are scheduled in Sri Lanka on Friday, as the country struggles to cope with the acute fuel shortage.

On Thursday, protesters shouted slogans, directing their ire against what they perceive as the Rajapaksa regime's gross mismanagement that has exacerbated Sri Lanka’s foreign-exchange woes. They also demanded President Rajapaksa's resignation.

Issuing a statement on the protest, the President’s office Friday morning said the agitation was the work of “extremists”. “A majority of the agitators who organised the protest are extremists,” a statement from the President’s Media Division said.

Following agitations outside Mr. Goatabaya's private residence on Thursday night, a police curfew was imposed in select Colombo neighbourhoods some suburbs, and lifted Friday morning. Citizens in some other parts of Sri Lanka blocked roads and burnt tyres, protesting the government’s handling of the crisis, according to local media reports.

According to the police, several, including five policemen, were injured while vehicles were set on fire as a spontaneous expression of public anger over the current economic crisis turned violent.

“As of now 45 people have been arrested. Five policemen were injured while a police bus, a jeep and two motorcycles were burnt. The protesters had also caused damage to a police water cannon truck,” a senior police official said.

In the Kelaniya area, protesters had blocked the main Colombo-Kandy road.

Sri Lanka is currently experiencing its worst economic crisis in history. With long lines for fuel, cooking gas, essentials in short supply and long hours of power cuts the public has been suffering for weeks.

Mr. Rajapaksa has defended his government's actions, saying the foreign exchange crisis was not his making and the economic downturn was largely pandemic-driven, with the island’s tourism revenue and inward remittances waning.

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