Thousands of Sri Lankans rally against the government’s handling of the crisis

Police special task force officers try to arrest protesters, during a protest against the rising cost of living, outside President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s waterfront office in Colombo on March 18, 2022.

PHOTO: Ishara S. Kodikara / AFP

  • Sri Lanka’s economic crisis has left people unable to afford basic necessities such as petrol, food and medicine.
  • Protesters are calling on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to leave office.
  • Rajapaksa faces the possibility of a vote of no confidence later in the week.

Thousands of supporters of Sri Lanka’s opposition parties gathered in the commercial capital Colombo on Sunday as a week of political and economic crisis showed no signs of abating.

Sri Lanka’s economy has been hit hard by the pandemic and tax cuts by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s government.

Dwindling foreign currency reserves have left the island nation of 22million struggling to pay for imports of fuel, food and medicine and have sent thousands onto the streets in daily protests that have turned at times to violence.

On Sunday, opposition parties ended a week-long march from the central city of Kandy, with thousands of supporters thronging Colombo’s Independence Square.

Many carried Sri Lankan flags and wore headbands reading “Gota Go Home”, one of the protests’ main rallying cries.

“So many people are suffering from the cost of fuel and food. There are queues for everything,” said Sunil Shantha, a 58-year-old university professor who said he voted for Rajapaksa in the last election. 2019 presidential elections.

“Gotabaya is a failed president.”

Rajapaksa was hit by mass resignations from his cabinet earlier this month and now faces the possibility of a vote of no confidence in his reformed government later in the week.

He and his older brother, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, have both refused to step down, calling instead for a unity government led by the president – an offer the opposition rejects.

“I again call on all leaders of political parties in (Sri Lanka) to reach consensus on behalf of the people,” Rajapaksa said in a tweet on Sunday.

“I sincerely wish to call on people to unite in a pro-people struggle by putting aside political differences.”

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