Sri Lanka: Thousands use tear gas and water cannons to protest curfew

Thousands of people have taken to the streets in Sri Lanka to protest against the government’s handling of the country’s worst economic crisis, despite a nationwide curfew.

The armed soldiers faced the crowd of protesters, when the police tried to break the barricades, the tear gas and water fired on students of hundreds of universities trying to break.

Many people have gathered on the side of the road due to shortage of essential food, fuel and prolonged electricity.

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Sri Lankan police officers set up barricades. Photo: AP

It comes after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa declared a state of emergency across the country, imposed a nationwide curfew and banned social media platforms.

Internet users have not been able to access Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, WhatsApp and a few other platforms for about 15 hours.

However, the social media blackout was called off after growing criticism.

Sites have been used to organize protests calling for Mr Rajapaksa’s resignation, with many blaming him for the country’s deep economic woes.

Sri Lankans protest in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on Sunday, April 3, 2022, demanding the resignation of the government.
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People have demanded the resignation of the country’s president. Photo: AP

The president used emergency powers to protest the opposition

He has been accused by protesters of abusing his power after taking emergency control, which enables him to maintain order, suppress rebellion, riot or break the law or maintain the necessary supplies.

The President is able to approve arrests, confiscate property and search premises.

Read more: Why is Sri Lanka facing economic crisis?

In an apparent move to disobey the order, opposition politicians marched on the main square of the country’s capital, Colombo.

Carrying slogans and placards reading “Stop the repression” and “Go home,” the protesters met with barricades set up by armed soldiers and police officers.

Sri Lankan undergraduates protest by blocking a highway during a curfew in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on Sunday, April 3, 2022, demanding the resignation of the government.  (AP Photo / Eranga Jayawardene).
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Officials use a watercaman and tear gas on protesters. Photo: AP

The European Union has called on the Sri Lankan government to “protect the democratic rights of all concerned, including the right to free assembly and dissent, which must be peaceful.”

US Ambassador Julie Chung said she was watching the situation “closely” and hoped “the coming days would bring restraint” as well as “much-needed economic stability”.

What is the situation in Sri Lanka?

The country is facing huge debt obligations and declining foreign reserves.

As a result, it has struggled to pay for imports and is now facing a shortage of basic supplies.

People have to wait in long lines for gas, and power outages last for several hours a day because there is not enough fuel to run the power plants.

On Sunday, April 3, 2022, Sri Lankans protest by blocking a highway during a curfew in Colombo, Sri Lanka, demanding the resignation of the government.  (AP Photo / Eranga Jayawardene).
Photo:
Protesters block a highway. Photo: AP

On top of that, dry weather has reduced the country’s hydropower potential.

The Covid-19 epidemic has severely damaged Sir Lanka’s economy, with the government estimating a loss of $ 14 billion (£ 10.7 billion) in the last two years.

However, its economic woes have been blamed on the government’s reliance on traditional cash sources such as tea, garments and tourism, and on the culture of accepting imported goods, rather than the government’s continued failure to diversify exports.

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