A protester holds an oil lamp during a protest against rising prices and shortages in Sri Lanka, in the capital Colombo on April 1, 2022 (AFP/Ishara S. KODIKARA)
Demonstrations against the Sri Lankan government escalated across the country on Friday, following a night of violence in response to a severe economic crisis, and a state of emergency was declared in the evening.
In many cities in Sri Lanka, people took to the streets again with signs urging the government to leave, police and local authorities said.
“It’s time to leave Rajapaksas!” was read on one of the placards carried by the protesters in the center of Colombo, the capital, specifically referring to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his brother, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.
“Enough corruption, go home Gota!” shouted another.
The government includes three brothers of the president, including Mahinda, prime minister, and Basil, finance minister, as well as one of his cousins.
On Friday night, the president declared a state of emergency, explaining that public security dictated enforcement of strict laws that give security forces sweeping powers to arrest and detain suspects.
In the night from Thursday to Friday, hundreds of protesters marched to the home of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to demand his resignation.
In downtown Nuwara Eliya, protesters blocked the opening of a flower display by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s wife, Shiranti, on Friday, police said.
Soldiers pass a damaged vehicle near the residence of Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, in Colombo on April 1, 2022 (AFP/Ishara S. KODIKARA)
The cities of Galle, Matara and Moratuwa in the south, as well as other cities in the north and center of the country, suffered from anti-government demonstrations on Friday.
The South Asian island faces severe shortages of basic necessities, soaring inflation and crippling power cuts.
Many fear that the country, which is experiencing the worst economic crisis since its independence in 1948, will default on its foreign debt.
From Thursday to Friday, two military cars and a police jeep were set on fire in the night from Thursday to Friday.
The protesters had also thrown rocks at the police and erected a barricade of burning tires on one of Colombo’s main axes.
At least two protesters had been injured by police gunfire – it was not immediately clear whether sharp or rubber bullets were used. Four other people were injured by a security vehicle.
According to police, 53 protesters have been arrested. Local media also reported the arrest of five press photographers who were allegedly tortured at the local police station, which the government promised to investigate.
Map showing Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo, where authorities imposed a curfew following an anti-government protest on March 31 (AFP/)
The island of 22 million was seriously short of foreign exchange and imposed a sweeping import ban in March 2020, leading to severe shortages of basic necessities.
Inflation stood at 18.7% in Colombo in March, the sixth consecutive monthly record, with food prices rising at a record high, according to the latest official figures.
According to the authorities and the media, according to the authorities and the media, no diesel has been found in all the gas stations on the island.
Lacking diesel for the generators, the state had to impose a 13-hour general blackout on Thursday, the longest on record.
Several public hospitals have stopped surgical procedures due to lack of medicines.
– “Arabic spring” –
“Thursday night’s protest was led by extremist forces calling for an Arab Spring,” the presidency’s office said in a brief statement, referring to anti-government protests that rocked Arab countries more than a decade ago. stagnation.
Clashes between police and protesters on March 31, 2022 in Colombo, Sri Lanka (AFP/Ishara S. KODIKARA)
Transport Minister Dilum Amunugama claimed “terrorists” were behind the unrest.
The curfew was lifted early Friday morning, but police and military presence were ramped up in Colombo, where the charred wreckage of a bus still blocked the road leading to the president’s residence.
Tighter security measures had been taken across the country after calls for nationwide protests on Friday.
Social media posts called on people to protest peacefully outside their homes.
A bus burned down during a protest outside the president’s home on March 31, 2022 in Colombo, Sri Lanka (AFP/Ishara S. KODIKARA)
Videos of the evening’s protest, shared on social media and authenticated by AFP, showed men and women demanding the resignation of the presidential clan.
Sri Lanka’s difficult situation has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic that has scuppered tourism and remittances.
Many economists also say it has been exacerbated by government mismanagement and years of accumulated loans.
Protesters in Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo on April 1, 2022 (AFP/Ishara S. KODIKARA)
The government has said it will seek help from the International Monetary Fund and request additional loans from India and China.