Student record

Sri Lankan police impose curfew after firing tear gas at student protesters

Police use tear gas and water cannons to disperse protesters near the president’s residence during a demonstration demanding the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, amid the country’s economic crisis, in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on July 8, 2022. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte

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Police use tear gas and water cannons to disperse protesters near the president’s residence during a demonstration demanding the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, amid the country’s economic crisis, in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on July 8, 2022. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte

Police in Sri Lanka’s commercial capital Colombo imposed a curfew after firing tear gas and water cannon at student protesters on Friday ahead of a planned weekend rally amid public discontent intensifies in the face of the worst economic crisis in seven decades.

The island nation has been crippled by a shortage of foreign exchange which has left it struggling to pay for essential imports of fuel, food and medicine. Its 22 million people have been bearing the brunt of record inflation, currency depreciation and continuous power cuts for months.

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Many blame President Gotabaya Rajapaksa for the rapid deterioration in living conditions, the worst since independence in 1948, which has sparked widespread protests that have at times turned violent.

“People are dying in fuel lines and can barely manage three meals a day. This is what the president and his government have done to this country,” said Wasantha Mudalige, a member of the Interuniversity Federation of students who organized a march to the president’s house on Friday.

“We won’t give up until this president and prime minister go home,” Mudalige said, referring to Ranil Wickremesinghe who was appointed prime minister in May to replace Rajapaksa’s older brother after he resigned.

In a statement, Rajapaksa said the public was being misled and that essential supplies were due to be delivered soon.

“At a time when effective solutions have been found to the existing problematic situation, the agenda of opposition political groups to mislead the people is very sad and unpleasant,” the statement said. “It will lead to the country rolling back once again.”

The students will stage a sit-in overnight, with other protesters including health care workers, clergy, trade unions and opposition supporters joining them on Saturday, organizers said.

From 9:00 p.m. local time (1530 GMT) on Friday, a curfew will be imposed in Colombo and several suburbs, police said in a statement. He did not say when the restrictions will be lifted.

“People living in curfew areas should stay at home. Breaking the police curfew will be considered a disturbance of public order and strict legal action will be taken,” a police notice reads. .

Security has been tightened in Colombo with around 3,000 police and paramilitary personnel deployed, as well as reinforced barricades around major public buildings, police spokesman Nalin Thalduwa said.

A spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said Saturday’s protest was turning violent.

“With the security forces, we have seen the use of lethal weapons during protests. That is why we are making this precautionary appeal because we are very concerned about what could happen tomorrow,” Ravina Shamdasani told reporters.

US Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung called on the military and police to allow peaceful protests.

“Violence is not an answer… Chaos and force will not fix the economy or bring the political stability that Sri Lankans need right now,” she said in a statement. tweet.

The political instability could potentially undermine Sri Lanka’s ongoing talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a possible $3 billion bailout.

The country hopes to submit a debt restructuring plan to the global lender by August and raise additional funds via a donor conference after reaching a staff-level deal.