VAfter President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s brother quit as prime minister and local reports claimed that demonstrators attacked properties and homes belonging to ruling-party legislators, violence erupted in Sri Lanka.
The ancestral home of the Rajapaksa family in the southern district of Hambantota was set on fire, and police were forced to use tear gas to disperse protesters who tried to storm the prime minister’s residence in Colombo’s Temple Trees neighborhood, the DailyMirror newspaper reported. Multiple calls to the police spokesperson for confirmation on the reports were unsuccessful.
The destruction came after a day of fast-moving events in Sri Lanka, which has faced months of street protests as Asia’s fastest inflation and mismanagement of government finances lead to shortages of food and fuel. Earlier on Monday, government supporters clashed with Rajapaksa’s opponents who have camped out in downtown Colombo for weeks to demand his resignation, prompting the government to impose a nationwide curfew and call in the army.
As protesters demanded the removal of all family members, Mahinda Rajapaksa was forced to resign. President Rajapaksa issued a call to all parliament parties for a unity government that would help them get out of the current crisis. Protesters resisted the curfew, attacking Rajapaksa’s homes.
The day of violence has left Gotabaya Rajapaksa more isolated, with no government in place to lead Sri Lanka’s ongoing talks with the International Monetary Fund for emergency funds to buy food and fuel. Anyone who may be a member of a newly appointed cabinet by the president will face increased pressure after the latest attack on him.
A camp of anti-government protesters is set on fire during clashes that took place in Colombo (Sri Lanka) on May 9, 2022.
Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images
“Protests are going to continue as the economic situation worsens,” said Smruti S. Pattanaik, a senior research fellow at the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses in New Delhi. “Unfortunately, there are no easy solutions for the people of Sri Lanka. Negotiations with the IMF are going to be long drawn and even then the remedial measures will mean further hardships.”
Rising prices of essential medications and gasoline have sparked protests in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is near bankruptcy, so it has temporarily suspended its payments to foreign creditors. IMF officials were set to hold virtual talks with their Sri Lankan counterparts from Monday through May 23 on the country’s request for support.
Stocks in Sri Lanka, which were among the worst performing countries this year, gained Monday prior to the violence, based on speculation that a new government might be formed.
After months of peaceful protests, Gotabaya Rajapaksa declared Friday a state emergency. This gives him broad powers to suspend laws and detain persons, as well as seize property. Television footage Monday showed groups setting fire to tents put up by anti-government demonstrators outside the prime minister’s official residence in Colombo. Similar scenes played out in front of the city’s waterfront promenade.
An official at Colombo’s main public hospital said at least 78 people had been brought in with injuries from the violence. Both the Rajapaksas condemned the day’s violence on Twitter.
The U.S. ambassador and foreign diplomats to Sri Lanka condemned violent protesters. According to the U.S. ambassador, anyone inciting violence should be investigated and peace should prevail on the island.
Opposition leader Sajith Premadasa decried Monday’s violence in a tweet and warned against “serious repercussions if any peaceful protesters or media are harmed.”
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