One dead and several injured in central Sri Lanka when police opened fire on people protesting rising fuel prices.
At least one person was killed and 10 others injured after police opened fire on a group of people protesting new fuel price increases in central Sri Lanka.
Tuesday’s incident was the first fatal shooting by security forces during weeks of demonstrations about the country’s worst economic crisis in decades.
Police confirmed they fired on protesters in Rambukkana, 90 kilometers (55 miles) northeast of Colombo, the capital. Police spokesman Nihal Talduwa said protesters were blocking railway tracks and roads and had ignored police warnings to disperse.
“To control the situation, the police fired on the protesters, injuring several protesters,” Thalduwa told the Reuters news agency.
“Several injured police officers have also been hospitalized,” he said, adding that live ammunition and tear gas were used to repel a crowd that was throwing stones and other objects. “Police are still in the area and trying to restore calm.”
Dr. Mihiri Priyangani, from the government hospital in Kegalle, said 11 people were taken there with suspected gunshot wounds and one had died. Two others were undergoing surgery, he said.
Sri Lanka is on the verge of bankruptcy, with almost $7bn of its total $25bn in foreign debt due to be paid off this year. A severe shortage of foreign exchange means that the country lacks money to buy imported goods.
People have endured months of shortages of essential items like food, cooking gas, fuel and medicine, queuing for hours to buy the very limited stock available.
Fuel prices have risen several times in recent months, resulting in sharp increases in transportation costs and the prices of other essential items. There was another round of increases at midnight on Monday.
Thousands of protesters continued to occupy the entrance to the president’s office for the eleventh day Tuesday, blaming him for the economic crisis.
anger for leadership
In an attempt to address growing calls for his entire government to resign, President Rajapaksa on Monday appointed a new cabinet and acknowledged public anger at mismanagement by the ruling family.
“People are suffering from the economic crisis and I deeply regret it,” he said.
Gotabaya’s brother, Mahinda, is the prime minister of Sri Lanka and has also come under fire for the dire economic situation in the country.
Sri Lanka is looking for $3-4bn from the IMF to overcome its balance of payments crisis and increase depleted reserves.
Dozens of Rajapaksa lawmakers have turned against the administration and took seats in opposition seats in parliament on Tuesday.
Jehan Perera of the Sri Lanka National Peace Council told Al Jazeera that the president should step down to defuse the crisis.
“The president … has failed to demonstrate the leadership and wisdom necessary to run the country,” he said.
“If you don’t [resign]So these protesters are going to continue, because these protests are not just because of some political ideology, but… because of the difficulties that people are going through.”
Sri Lanka’s economic collapse began after the coronavirus pandemic torpedoed vital income from tourism and remittances.
The Rajapaksa administration has urged citizens abroad to donate foreign currency to help pay for desperately needed essentials after announcing that it would suspend payment on all its foreign debt.
Colombo has sent a delegation to Washington to start rescue talks with the IMF.