Sri Lanka Imposes Curfew Amid Clashes

Sri Lanka has imposed a nationwide curfew as clashes erupted between government supporters and citizen protesters demanding the premier and his brother, the president, resign in recognition of the nation’s worst economic crisis since independence.

According to local news, the military was also called in Colombo by the army to end the violence. Television on Monday showed groups setting fire to tents put up by demonstrators outside the prime minister’s official residence. Similar scenes played out in front of the city’s waterfront promenade where for weeks citizens have lined up peacefully to demand the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

Water cannons were used by police to extinguish the flames and disperse crowds. The curfew in Colombo also caused the cancellation of a press conference by central banks scheduled for Monday.

Rising prices for essential medications and gasoline have sparked protests in Sri Lanka. The country is near bankruptcy, so it has temporarily suspended foreign debt payments.

The economic crisis has morphed into a political one as opposition and protesters demand the Rajapaksas’ ouster and for the country’s constitution be amended to roll back the sweeping executive powers of the presidency.

The violence has erupted as IMF officials are set to hold virtual talks with their Sri Lankan counterparts from Monday through May 23rd to continue discussions on the country’s request for support from the multilateral agency.

Sri Lanka’s dollar bonds due this July was indicated on Monday 0.49 cents lower at 46.04 cents on the dollar, reversing the 0.48 cents gain on Friday.

Derana TV reports that nine individuals were hospitalized after the clashes.

Over the weekend, local media reported that Gotabaya Rajapaksa had asked his brother at a cabinet meeting Friday to think about stepping down from prime minister in order to create an interim government.

The prime minister told supporters Monday that he was ready to make “any sacrifice” needed for the country, without specifying his next move.

Friday night, President Obama declared a State of Emergency, giving him wide powers to suspend laws, seize property, and even detain individuals.

Opposition leader Sajith Premadasa decried the violence in a tweet and warned against “serious repercussions if any peaceful protesters or media are harmed.”

—With assistance from Pradeep Kurup.

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