Sri Lanka Police tear gas protesters against the President

COLOMBO – Police in Sri Lanka on Saturday used tear gas and water cannons to disperse protesters trying to approach the president’s office and demanding his resignation over the country’s ongoing economic crisis.

The protesters gathered to mark the 50th day of protests, where they camped outside President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s office. The police dispersed the rally and briefly arrested three people before releasing them.

Nearly bankrupt after defaulting on its foreign loans, Sri Lanka is struggling with acute shortages of essentials such as cooking gas, fuel and medicines. People had to wait in long lines for hours to buy goods and many still leave empty-handed.

The country’s foreign exchange reserves have also shrunk to just enough to buy two weeks’ worth of imports.

Authorities announced last month that they were suspending nearly $7 billion in foreign debt due to be repaid this year. Sri Lanka must pay $25 billion by 2026. The Indian Ocean island nation’s total debt is $51 billion.

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The protesters say the main responsibility for the economic crisis lies with Rajapaksa and his family, who they accuse of corruption and mismanagement.

Violence erupted across the country on May 9 when Rajapaksa supporters attacked peaceful protesters. Nine people, including an MP from the ruling party, were killed and the houses of incumbent ministers burned down. It nearly crushed the Rajapaksa dynasty after the president’s brother, then-Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, resigned amid the violence.

Three of the president’s siblings and a nephew had already resigned from their cabinet posts.

New Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has said he will have an economic reform plan ready within two weeks in order to get International Monetary Fund approval for a bailout.

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https://www.local10.com/news/world/2022/05/28/sri-lanka-police-tear-gas-protesters-opposed-to-president/ Sri Lanka Police tear gas protesters against the President

Sarah Y. Kim

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