Sri Lankan PM resigns as crisis deepens; dozens injured in violent clashes

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NEW DELHI: As the country faces its worst economic crisis since independence, Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa tendered his resignation on Monday.
The development came the day Sri Lankan police imposed a nationwide curfew after clashes broke out between the rival political camp in Colombo, injuring at least 76 people, officials said.
Months of power outages and severe shortages of food, fuel and medicine have caused widespread suffering across the South Asian island and weeks of extremely peaceful anti-government protests.
Rajapaksa loyalists armed with sticks and clubs attacked unarmed protesters who had been camping outside President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s office since April 9.
Police fired tear gas and water cannons at government supporters who crossed police lines to destroy tents and other structures set up by anti-government protesters.
Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, the president’s brother, urged “our general public to exercise restraint and remember that violence only breeds violence.
“The economic crisis we find ourselves in needs an economic solution which this administration is committed to solving,” he tweeted.
The government on Friday imposed a state of emergency giving the army sweeping powers to arrest and detain people after unions brought the country to a virtual standstill in hopes of pressuring Rajapaksas to quit .
The Defense Ministry said in a statement on Sunday that anti-government protesters were behaving in a “provocative and threatening manner” and disrupting essential services.
Unions said they would hold daily protests from Monday to pressure the government to lift the emergency.
Labor leader Ravi Kumudesh said he would mobilize public and private sector workers to storm the national parliament when it opens its next session on May 17.
“What we want is for the president and his family to leave,” Kumudesh said in a statement.
President Rajapaksa has not been seen in public since tens of thousands of people attempted to storm his private residence in Colombo on March 31.
Sri Lanka’s crisis began after the coronavirus pandemic hammered vital income from tourism and remittances.
This left him short of foreign currency needed to repay his debt, forcing the government to ban imports of many goods.
This in turn led to severe shortages, runaway inflation and long blackouts.
In April, the country announced that it was defaulting on its $51 billion foreign debt.
The younger brother of the Sri Lankan Prime Minister, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, although wishing for his resignation, had not directly conveyed his wish. The president wants his resignation to allow him to opt for a government of national unity, an interim arrangement until the current economic crisis can be resolved, sources said earlier.
“What I feel is that he would say that I have no responsibility in the current crisis, so no reason for me to resign,” said Jayasekera, a ruling coalition dissident, adding that he would put the ball in Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s court as if to say sack. me if you want.
Mahinda Rajapaksa, the strongman of the Rajapaksa clan, faced public anger on Sunday in the holy city of Anuradhapura. He was booed and shouted at by the angry public who are in the streets demanding fuel, cooking gas and an end to power cuts.
The protesters want the entire Rajapaksa family out of politics and return what they claimed to have stolen from the country.
The powerful Buddhist clergy had also been pushing for the resignation of the prime minister and cabinet to pave the way for a caretaker government.
(with agency contributions)



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