A demonstrator 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 multiplied throughout the country this Friday, after a night of violence in response to a serious economic crisis, and at night a state of emergency was declared.
In many Sri Lankan cities, people took to the streets again with banners calling on the government to leave, according to police and local authorities.
“Time to leave Rajapaksas!” could be read on one of the posters carried by protesters in the center of Colombo, the capital, in particular referring to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his brother, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.
“Enough of corruption, go home Gota!” shouted another.
The government includes the president’s three brothers, including Mahinda, the prime minister, and Basil, the finance minister, as well as one of his nephews.
On Friday night, the president declared a state of emergency, explaining that public security dictated the application of strict laws that gave security forces broad powers to arrest and jail suspects.
During the night from Thursday to Friday, hundreds of protesters marched towards the house 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 walk past a damaged vehicle near the residence of Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in Colombo on April 1, 2022 (AFP/Ishara S. KODIKARA)
The towns of Galle, Matara and Moratuwa, in the south, but also other towns in the north and center of the country were disturbed this Friday by demonstrations against the Government.
The South Asian island is experiencing severe shortages of essential items, rampant inflation and crippling power outages.
Many fear that the country, which is going through its worst economic crisis since its independence in 1948, will default on its foreign debt.
Two military cars and a police jeep were set on fire overnight from Thursday to Friday.
Protesters also threw bricks at police and set up a barricade of burning tires on one of Colombo’s main thoroughfares.
At least two protesters were injured by police gunfire; it was not immediately clear whether real or rubber bullets were used. Four other people were injured by a security vehicle.
Fifty-three protesters were arrested, according to police. Local media also reported the arrest of five press photographers who were allegedly tortured at the local police station, charges the government has promised to investigate.
Map locating the Sri Lankan capital Colombo, where authorities imposed a curfew after an anti-government protest on March 31 (AFP/)
With a severe shortage of foreign exchange, the island of 22 million people imposed a total import ban in March 2020, leading to severe shortages of essential items.
Inflation stood at 18.7% in March in Colombo, the sixth consecutive monthly record, with food prices soaring on record, according to the latest official figures.
Diesel was not found at all gas stations on the island, according to authorities and the media.
Due to a lack of diesel for the generators, the state had to impose a general power cut on Thursday for 13 hours, the longest ever recorded.
Several public hospitals have stopped surgical operations due to lack of medicines.
– “Arab Spring” –
“Thursday night’s protest was led by extremist forces calling for an Arab Spring,” the office of the presidency said in a brief statement, referring to anti-government protests that rocked Arab countries more than a decade ago in response. to corruption and the economy. stagnation.
Clashes between police and protesters on March 31, 2022 in Colombo, Sri Lanka (AFP/Ishara S. KODIKARA)
Transport Minister Dilum Amunugama claimed that “terrorists” were behind the riots.
The overnight curfew was lifted early Friday morning, but the police and military presence intensified in Colombo, where the charred remains of a bus still blocked the road leading to the president’s residence.
Heightened security measures were taken across the country after calls for nationwide protests on Friday.
Social media posts urged people to peacefully protest in front of their homes.
A bus is set on fire during a protest outside the president’s house on March 31, 2022 in Colombo, Sri Lanka (AFP/Ishara S. KODIKARA)
The videos of the night’s protest shared on social networks, whose authenticity has been verified by AFP, showed men and women demanding the resignation of the presidential clan.
Sri Lanka’s plight has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic which has torpedoed tourism and remittances.
Many economists also say it has been exacerbated by government mismanagement and years of accumulated debt.
Protesters in Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka, on April 1, 2022 (AFP/Ishara S. KODIKARA)
The government said it was seeking help from the International Monetary Fund while requesting additional loans from India and China.