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Sri Lankan police fire tear gas, water cannons to quell protests in front of PM Mahinda Rajapaksa’s home

People raise slogans against Sri Lanka’s President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and demand that Rajapaksa family politicians step down, during a protest amid the country’s economic crisis, at Independence Square in Colombo, Sri Lanka on April 4, 2022. | Photo Credit: Reuters
PTIApril 04, 2022 17:59 IST
Updated: April 04, 2022 18:18 IST

Sri Lankan police fired tear gas and water cannons at some 2,000 irate protesters who defied curfew orders and tried to storm Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s residence in Tangalle on April 4, demanding his resignation amid the worst economic crisis in the country.

Around 2,000 people descended near the Prime Minister’s residence known as Carlton House in Tangalle, situated 200 km south of Colombo, and pulled down barricades chanting anti-Rajapaksa slogans.

Interestingly, Tangalle, which has a Sinhalese-majority population, is considered to be the bastion of the powerful Rajapaksa clan.

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According to eyewitness accounts, angry protesters managed to dodge the police and were seen running towards Mr. Rajapaksa’s gates clamouring for his resignation.

The Government’s poor handling of the economic crisis where citizens currently endure long hours of power outages and scarcity of essentials has angered the public that has resulted in planned and sustained country-wide protests since April 3.

These protests have prompted the Government to declare an emergency and impose a 36-hour curfew and a social media ban.

On Sunday anti-Government protests were staged here in Independence Square, protesting President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s move to impose a state of emergency and a raft of other restrictions here in Independence Square.

Protests staged by university students also erupted in the country’s Central Province on April 3 evening.

Consequently, the current economic turmoil and unrest in the island nation has precipitated a political flux with all 26 Cabinet Ministers submitting their resignation.

On Monday, Sri Lankan President fired his brother and Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa and invited the Opposition parties to join a unity Cabinet to tackle the raging public anger against the hardships caused due to the country’s worst economic crisis.

Incidentally, Mr. Basil Rajapaksa had negotiated the Indian economic relief package to help Sri Lanka tackle the current foreign exchange crisis.

He has been replaced by Ali Sabry, who was until Sunday night the Minister of Justice.

Mr. Basil Rajapaksa was scheduled to leave for the U.S. to meet with the International Monetary Fund for a possible bailout package to get over the unprecedented economic crisis.

He was at the centre of anger within the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna coalition.

Last month, at least two Ministers were sacked from the Cabinet as they publicly criticised Mr. Basil Rajapaksa.

After the resignation of the Cabinet Ministers, at least three other new Ministers were sworn in.

G.L. Peiris has been sworn in as the Foreign Minister, while Dinesh Gunawardena is the new Education Minister.

Johnston Fernando was appointed the new Minister of Highways.

Meanwhile, Governor of the Central Bank Ajith Nivard Cabraal also announced his resignation on April 4.

“In the context of all Cabinet Ministers resigning, I have today submitted my resignation as Governor,” he said in a tweet.

Mr. Cabraal, 67, was blamed for his rigid stance on Sri Lanka seeking an economic bailout through an IMF structural adjustment facility.

Samagi Jana Balavegaya, the principal Opposition party on April 4 termed this spate of resignations a “sham” and declined an invitation from the President to form an interim government.

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