AP, COLOMBO :
On Thursday, the crowds demonstrating along the roads leading to Rajapaksa’s private residence on the outskirts of Colombo stoned two army buses that police were using to block the protesters. They set fire to one of the buses and turned back a fire truck that rushed to douse it.
Senior police spokesperson Ajith Rohana told media that 24 police personnel and several other civilians were injured in the unrest, and several vehicles belonging to the police and army were torched by protesters. Total damage was estimated to be around $132,000 and the suspects will be charged with damaging public property, Rohana said.
Reporters asked Rohana about accusations that police officers manhandled journalists covering the protests, including the arrest of at least one of them. Rohana said police followed the rules for riot control and took action only after the protest turned violent more than four hours after it started.
Sri Lanka’s economic woes are blamed on successive governments not diversifying exports and relying on traditional cash sources like tea, garments and tourism, and on a culture of consuming imported goods.
The COVID-19 pandemic dealt a heavy blow to Sri Lanka’s economy, with the government estimating a loss of $14 billion in the last two years.
Sri Lanka also has immense foreign debt after borrowing heavily on projects that don’t earn money. Its foreign debt repayment obligations are around $7 billion for this year alone.
According to the Central Bank, inflation rose to 17.5% in February from 16.8% a month earlier. Its expected to continue rising because the government has allowed the local currency to float freely.