Sri Lanka on Friday lifted an overnight curfew that was imposed in several parts of Colombo after protestors tried to storm President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s home over the government’s handling of the country’s economic crisis, Daily Mirror reported.
On Thursday night, security forces fired bullets into the crowd and used teargas and water cannons to disperse the demonstrators, who were asking Rajapaksa to resign. It was, however, not clear if the forces used rubber bullets or live rounds. One person was critically injured in the clash, according to AFP.
The curfew had been imposed in six police divisions of Colombo. It was lifted at 5 am on Friday, police spokesperson SSP Nihal Thalduwa told Daily Mirror.
The president’s office on Friday morning alleged in a statement that the majority of the agitators “who organised the protest are extremists”, The Hindu reported.
Sri Lanka is facing its worst economic crisis since independence in 1948 as the island’s foreign reserves have hit rock bottom. The country had declared an emergency in August last year. Sri Lankans are now facing shortages of milk powder, cooking gas, kerosene and other essential items.
As the crisis worsened, authorities imposed 13-hour daily power cuts from Thursday due to shortage of fuel. The state electricity regulator extended Wednesday’s 10-hour power cut by another three hours.
On Thursday, protestors seen wearing motorcycle helmets dismantled a wall and even set a bus on fire on a road leading to Rajapaksa’s home in Colombo’s Mirihana. It was not clear if the president was at his residence during the protest.
The protestors were heard shouting “Go home Gota” and “Gota is a dictator”, referring to the president.
A demonstrator Dulaj Madhushan told the Associated Press that the protest was not a political one but by the citizens of the country.
“They took people for granted,” he said. “Now you can see peoples’ power.”
Another protester, Asanka Dharmasinghe, said that he runs a carpentry shed and pays about $12 to his four employees but has been unable to cover the costs as he only has two hours of electricity to work.
“My daughter is sitting for exams, but there is no paper,” he added.
The economic crisis
Retail inflation in Sri Lanka hit 18.7% in March, the statistics department said on Thursday. Food inflation also reached 30.2% in the same month in the country.
Government-run hospitals are running out of life-saving medicines due to a shortage of foreign exchange needed for imports. Several state-run hospitals have stopped conducting surgeries too.
Petrol prices in the country have increased by 92% and diesel by 76%, since the beginning of the year.
Sri Lanka is looking for a bailout from the International Monetary Fund and has also sought help from India and China.
On March 18, New Delhi had extended a line of credit worth $1 billion, or over Rs 7,600 crore, to support Colombo to manage the economic meltdown. In January too, India had offered an assistance of $1.4 billion, over Rs 10,661 crore, to Sri Lanka.
On Monday, the Sri Lankan central bank said it has sought an additional line of credit of $1.5 billion, or over Rs 11,396 crore, from India to import essential supplies.
On March 21, Chinese Ambassador to Sri Lanka Qi Zhenhong had said that Beijing was also considering extending a credit line worth $2.5 billion, or more than Rs 18,994 crore, to Colombo.