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.
Local news reports also said the military was called out in Colombo to quell 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.
Police could be seen using water cannons to disperse the crowds and douse the flames. A central bank press conference scheduled for Monday afternoon was also canceled after the curfew was imposed in Colombo.
Soaring prices of everything from gasoline to essential medicines have kept protests on the boil in Sri Lanka, which is close to bankruptcy and has suspended payments on foreign debt.
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 reported that at least nine people had been hospitalized with injuries from the clashes.
Local media reported over the weekend that Gotabaya Rajapaksa has asked his brother during a special cabinet meeting on Friday to consider stepping down as prime minister to make way for 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.
Late Friday, the president declared a state of emergency, which gives him sweeping powers to suspend laws, detain people and seize property.
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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