Sri Lanka paralyzed by nationwide strike, police try to disperse students

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Demonstrations continue in Sri Lanka where police tried on Friday to disperse students who threatened to invade parliament. The country is blocked by a national strike which demands the resignation of the government. A movement partly linked to the Covid-19 pandemic which has dried up income from tourism and remittances from the diaspora.

Police in Sri Lanka tried again on Friday, May 6, to disperse students threatening to invade parliament, as the country is paralyzed by a widely followed nationwide strike demanding the resignation of the government.

For months, the island of 22 million people has suffered severe shortages of food, fuel, electricity and medicine, fueling anger against the ruling Rajapaksa clan, accused of mismanagement.

Thousands of protesting students have taken position since Thursday on the road leading to Parliament, located on an artificial island in the middle of a lake in Colombo, the capital. The police tried in vain to dislodge them with water cannons and tear gas, then tried again on Friday without managing to prevent the crowd from gathering again behind barricades set up near Parliament.

black flags

Public transport was at a standstill, offices deserted, and millions of workers went on strike at the call of the unions.

Even the private buses were at a standstill. “We will not operate the service today but if people want to join the anti-government protests within a 20 km radius, we offer the buses,” said Gemunu Wijeratne, president of the bus operators’ association. private.

Workers demonstrated outside their factories and black flags were unfurled across the country in anger against the government.

“We can identify the president’s policy mistakes that have led to the deplorable state of our economy,” said union leader Ravi Kumudesh. “He must go”.

The economic crisis is unheard of since independence in 1948. It is partly linked to the Covid-19 pandemic which has dried up tourism income and remittances from the Sri Lankan diaspora.

The crisis could last at least another two years

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has repeatedly assured that he will not withdraw despite heightened tensions, demonstrations and a camp outside his residence for nearly a month.

Unable to pay for fuel imports, utilities have imposed daily blackouts to ration electricity, and gasoline is only available at the price of long queues outside gas stations.

Hospitals lack vital medicines and the government has appealed for donations from citizens living abroad.

Sri Lanka, which turned to the IMF for help, announced on April 12 that it would default on its $51 billion foreign debt.

But the unprecedented crisis could last at least another two years, Finance Minister Ali Sabry warned.

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