Sri Lanka is facing its worst economic crisis since independence with food and fuel shortages, soaring prices and power cuts affecting large numbers of citizens, leading to massive protests over the handling of the situation by the government.
Economic crisis in Sri Lanka: 10 points
Shots were fired from inside the Sri Lankan prime minister’s official residence on Monday as thousands of protesters broke through the main gate and set fire to a parked truck, an AFP reporter said.
Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa said on Twitter that he had tendered his resignation to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, a move that followed a violent attack by government supporters on protesters, prompting authorities to deploy armed troops to the capital, Colombo.
After a few hours of imposing a curfew in Sri Lanka, it will finally be lifted on Tuesday at 7 a.m., Sri Lankan police announced on Monday. The curfew was imposed after clashes erupted in the Galle Face area in the western province of Colombo on Monday with immediate effect, the Daily Mirror reported.
The ancestral home of the Rajapaksa family in the southern district of Hambantota was set on fire and police were forced to use tear gas to disperse protesters attempting to storm the prime minister’s residence in the Temple Trees area of Colombo, the DailyMirror newspaper reported.
Dozens of buses used by Rajapaksa supporters to travel to Colombo earlier in the day were set on fire or damaged. In the outskirts of Maharagama, a mob forced a leader of a pro-government group off their bus and threw him into a garbage cart, before ramming the vehicle with a bulldozer.
Four people, including a ruling party lawmaker, died in Monday’s violence, police spokesman Nihal Thalduwa told The Associated Press. President Rajapaksa imposed a nationwide curfew Monday evening until Wednesday morning.
Soaring prices for everything from petrol to essential medicines have kept protests simmering in Sri Lanka, which is on the verge of bankruptcy and has suspended payments on its external debt.
Sri Lanka is in talks with the IMF to put together a bailout, but its progress depends on debt restructuring negotiations with creditors. Any long-term plan would take at least six months to get started.
The Sri Lankan government ran into large budget deficits after cutting taxes in 2019 and struggled to collect taxes during the COVID-19 pandemic. It has also accumulated massive external debt – much of it owed to China – and has little foreign exchange reserves to pay for imports and defend its beleaguered currency, the rupee.
Sri Lankan stocks, the worst performers in the world this year, had gained on Monday before the violence on speculation that a new government would take the reins.