Protest at Sri Lanka leader’s home turns violent

Sri Lankan police imposed curfew and fired tear gas at demonstrators protesting dire food, fuel and power shortages outside the president’s house.

Agitated protesters stormed through barricades, and were accused of setting fire to a bus on Thursday night.

President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa blamed the events on “extremist elements”.

Sri Lanka is in the midst of a foreign exchange crisis that has crippled its economy.

Faced with 13-hour power cuts, lack of fuel, essential food items and medicines, public anger had reached a new high.

The protest outside the President’s house began peacefully, but participants say things turned violent after police fired tear gas, water cannons and also beat people present.

Protesters retaliatedby pelting them with stones.

On Friday morning, police arrested 45 people although no charges have been made against them yet.

The demonstration marked a massive turnaround in popularity for Mr Rajapaksa, who swept into power with a majority win in 2019, promising stability and a “strong hand” to rule the country.

Critics have been pointing to rank corruption and nepotism – his brothers and nephews occupy several key ministerial portfolios – as one of the main reasons for the situation the country found itself in.

News reported that the president and his ministers were exempted from the power cuts, along with opulent displays of wealth by family members, which only increased the public’s anger.

The government has been blaming the crisis on the pandemic’s impact on tourism – one of the island nation’s main sources of foreign revenue – along with a series of attacks on churches on Easter Sunday, 2019, which led to a marked drop in tourism.

But experts say that this crisis has been a long time in the making.

“This is an implosion, an accumulated outcome of what has been building up for a couple of decades and as usual there is no one to take responsibility for it.

Of course, the present government is directly responsible for its wilful mismanagement of the crisis since they came into power in 2019 by sheer incompetency, arrogance and of course corruption,” Jayadeva Uyangoda, a political scientist and commentator, told the BBC. -BBC

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