Sri Lanka: Violence Continues, Two Policemen Killed and Hundreds Injured

Sri Lanka: Violence Continues, Two Policemen Killed and Hundreds Injured

 As is well known, nationwide protests have occurred in Sri Lanka since last month, where protesters called for the resignation of Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. The call is in the aftermath of the economic crisis that nearly bankrupted Sri Lanka and its people face shortages of fuel, food and other basic necessities. On Monday (9/5/2022) Mahinda Rajapaksa finally resigned. He and his family were evacuated from their official residence through thousands of protesters trying to break into the heavily fortified colonial-era building. 

There was no confirmation of their whereabouts, but some protesters gathered outside the naval base at Trincomalee on the northeast coast, which is believed to be the Rajapaksa family's shelter. The Indian Embassy denied social media speculation that certain political persons and their families had fled to India. The Indian Embassy also rejected speculation that India was sending troops to Sri Lanka. The country reaffirmed its support for Sri Lanka on Tuesday, saying India had provided $3.5 billion in aid to tackle the crisis. India's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the country was also sending essential items such as food and medicine. 

Meanwhile, Gotabaya Rajapaksa remains at his official residence which is protected by a layered iron fence guarded by the military and police. On Monday, supporters gathered at the prime minister's official residence to urge Mahinda Rajapaksa to stay in office. After the meeting, mobs supporting the government beat peaceful protesters camped near the prime minister's residence and the president's office.
The supervising police did little to stop the action. Across the country, angry citizens have responded by attacking government supporters and ruling party politicians. Eight people including a lawmaker from the ruling party and two police officers were killed and 219 injured in the violence, the Defense Ministry said. 

In addition, 104 buildings and 60 vehicles were burned. The pro-government mobs were chased, beaten and stripped naked. Some of them were pushed into the lake and not allowed to return to the ground for hours. When word spread about where the bus was taking the supporters, people crushed them and set them on fire. The toppled buses still smoked across the capital, Colombo, as protests continued. Government supporters' homes were attacked and several businesses burned, although personal violence has subsided. Sri Lanka nearly went bankrupt after saying it was suspending payments on foreign loans of $7 billion that was due this year from $25 billion due in 2026. Its total foreign debt (ULN) is 51 billion dollars. A shortage of foreign currency has led to reduced imports and scarcity of basic necessities ranging from food to gas for cooking, fuel and medicine.

 Over the last few months people have been forced to queue for hours to buy limited stock and many have returned with nothing. Protesters blame alleged corruption and the Rajapaksa brothers' style of government for the economic crisis. The prime minister's resignation has created an administrative vacuum without a Cabinet, which automatically dissolves with the resignation. The president is under pressure to appoint someone who can unite everyone as prime minister, give most of his powers to Parliament and step down. The vacuum has also created fears of a military takeover especially if the violence continues.

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