Protesters take over Colombo seafront

Families of Easter blast victims join demonstrators 

April 09, 2022 05:34 pm | Updated April 10, 2022 08:10 am IST - Colombo

Protesters take part in a demonstration in Colombo on April 9, 2022.

Protesters take part in a demonstration in Colombo on April 9, 2022. | Photo Credit: AFP

Thousands thronged Colombo’s iconic seafront on Saturday, in the largest agitation yet since public protests erupted against the government’s “failed” response to the country’s deepening economic crisis. 

Demonstrators marched towards the Colonial-era Presidential Secretariat, the most powerful office in the country, loudly chanting slogans asking President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to resign. They held posters sharply criticising him and the ruling clan, calling them “thieves”, asking them to “go home” and even “go to jail”. 

The past few weeks have witnessed a surge in public protests across Sri Lanka, as citizens struggle to access and afford essential food items, cooking gas, and fuel amid shortages and record inflation. The Rajapaksa administration is facing unprecedented public outrage, including from its own support base, for “mishandling” the severe economic downturn facing the island nation. 

“They have just ruined our country. We don’t want them in government anymore. They are thieves,” an angry protester said. A huge contingent of youth was at the venue, attired in black and holding banners, including one asking for the “protection of people’s sovereignty’. Many of them wore black headbands that read “Go home Gota”. 

“My children’s future is in question. What do we even have in this country to give us hope? This is enough. The Rajapaksas must go,” said an elderly lady straining her voice as she joined the chorus of chants. 

Adding another dimension of resistance to the ongoing citizens’ agitations, families of the victims of the Easter terror attacks of April 2019 walked from suburban Negombo to Colombo, covering about 40 km by foot and two churches that were attacked in the serial blasts, demanding justice.

Watch | Protestors throng Colombo’s iconic sea-front, demand President Gotabaya’s resignation

For months now, they have been urging authorities to expedite the investigations, while Sri Lanka’s Catholic church stepped up the pressure — locally and internationally — on the Rajapaksa government and President Gotabaya, who came to power barely six months after the incident, promising national security. 

Archbishop of Colombo Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, who has earlier accused the government of “conspiring” to come to power, told protestors: “Everyone must get on the streets till the government leaves, these leaders must go.” 

A Sinhalese language placard held by a protestor on Saturday, outside St. Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo — attacked on Easter Day in 2019 — read “Mastermind #Gotagohome”. 

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