Protesters in Sri Lanka demand a new government a day after riots killed eight people
On Tuesday, protesters and a leading trade group in Sri Lanka called for a new administration to take control of the country’s crisis, while the president appealed for calm a day after rioting killed eight people and forced his brother to resign as prime minister.
Sri Lanka is in the midst of its greatest economic crisis in history, with a severe lack of foreign cash preventing crucial imports such as drugs and fuel from reaching the country.
For months, India has primarily supported its faltering economy, providing more than $3.5 billion in aid as the country initiated long-delayed talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a bailout package and sought assistance from China.
China and India have long fought for control of Sri Lanka, a strategically important island off India’s southern point with a population of 22 million people.
However, the public’s tolerance was tested on Monday when supporters of the ruling party invaded an anti-government demonstration camp in Colombo’s commercial city, sparking a series of fatal skirmishes that leftover 200 people injured.
Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned hours after the violence began in the hopes of forging a unity government, and the police enforced a statewide curfew until 7 a.m. on Wednesday. The whole cabinet of the country has also resigned.
Protesters enraged by ongoing gasoline, cooking gas, and electricity shortages disobeyed the curfew and attacked government officials, torching homes, stores, and businesses belonging to ruling party lawmakers and provincial politicians.
The former prime minister’s younger brother, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, has called for a halt to the violence, and his government has given the military and police wide authority to detain and question people without arrest warrants.
The country’s defense ministry also instructed troops to shoot at anyone who was causing damage to public property or posing a threat to people’s lives.
According to some analysts, if the president decides to resign in the face of mounting criticism, the constitution provides for parliament to elect a new leader.
The Joint Garment Association Forum, which represents Sri Lanka’s economically important apparel industry, called for political stability in the country after the government declared a state of emergency late last week.