Photo Credit: AntanO
By Joyce Hu
One dead and twelve are wounded after police opened fire on protesters in Rambukkana, Sri Lanka. As a result of the country’s current economic crisis, Sri Lankans have been faced with a lack of food and fuel in addition to power shortages. Their healthcare system is also on the verge of collapse as hospitals struggle to replenish medical drugs and equipment. With nearly $25 billion in foreign debt and $7 billion due by this year, Sri Lanka faces the consequences of its depleting foreign currency reserves and is currently petitioning for a bailout from the International Monetary Fund. Although the current stance of the Ministry of Finance points to declining tourist revenue from the pandemic, citizens blame mismanagement of government funds, unnecessary infrastructure spending, and administrational nepotism for the current economic crisis.
The President’s refusal to respond to citizens’ demands has only increased public anger. In early April, tens of thousands of protestors rallied to call for President Rajapaksa to resign. Instead of affirming citizens’ demands, this past week the president appointed a completely new cabinet, with the exception of his older brother, who has retained his role as Prime Minister.
This past Tuesday, just an hour outside the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo, police opened fire on demonstrators for the first time since the beginning of the protests and used tear gas in an attempt to control the crowd. Police spokesman Nihal Talduwa said that authorities had to respond to protestors who were blocking public roads, throwing stones at police, burning tires, and ignoring warnings to disperse. Mihiri Priyangani, the director of Kegalle Teaching Hospital, told Reuters News that at least one protester was killed, and twelve are now hospitalized, two of whom may be in critical condition.
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