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In Sri Lanka, churches join the protest movement

A Sri Lankan protests during a massive rally to demand the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his government, in Colombo, Sri Lanka, April 9, 2022.

The popular anger that is shaking Sri Lanka overflows on all sides. Aware of social networks, thousands of protesters gathered all day Saturday, April 9, in the direction of Galle Face, in Colombo. This chic district of the capital, where modern buildings and luxury hotels grow along the sea, not far from the presidential palace, is a symbol of the island’s reliance on China and its enormous debt burden. The debt amounts to 51 billion dollars (46.9 million euros), for this country of 22 million inhabitants.

Armed with rudimentary gear, national flags, placards cut from cardboard boxes or simple sheets of paper, the protesters arrived early in the morning to wave and chant hostile slogans along the way to the president of the republic, whose resignation they demand. Along the way, the drivers responded with a chorus of horns. “I have to go home”“Sri Lanka needs responsible leaders”“the land is not your private property”“the corrupt in prison” : the protestors’ hostility, fueled by months of hardship, targets Gotabaya Rajapaksa, elected in 2019 after deadly attacks on churches and hotels blamed on the Islamic State terrorist group.

Also read the archive (2019): Article reserved for our subscribers In Sri Lanka, family power

Sri Lankans, traumatized, had put their fate in the hands of this man known for his brutal operations against the Tigers during the civil war that for twenty-six years pitted the majority Sinhalese, mostly Buddhists, against the separatist organization the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), mainly Hindus.

All layers of society

He had presented himself as the man capable of meeting the security and economic challenges facing the country. He installed a real family clan at the top of the state, especially his brother Mahinda, appointed prime minister. “I voted for him in 2019, testifies a young thirty-year-old civil servant. I deeply regret, the country suffers from his inability and his mistakes. †

At the end of the day they were thousands to fill the road and esplanade along the sea. The mass protest movement is now reaching all levels of society, from merchants to tuk-tuk drivers, from students to artists, workers and employers, disadvantaged for months by an economic and financial crisis unprecedented in its magnitude. The island is short of everything, fuel, medicine, electricity. The inhabitants are getting poorer every day, crushed by galloping inflation.

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