Sri Lanka’s protesters remain defiant
With no end in sight to the national economic crisis that led them to take to the streets, protesters in Sri Lanka are digging in against a president they blame for crashing the economy.
On Thursday, as hundreds of student protesters continued their call for the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, they were met with police tear gas and water cannons. They endured this, and a monsoon downpour that followed, adding loudspeakers to amplify their chants and speeches expressing anger at the government.
“There is no solution but for the president to go,” said Naveendra Liyaanarachachi, 27, one of the demonstrators.
Sri Lanka, an island nation of 22 million people, is facing a dire economic crisis, with depleted foreign exchange reserves driving up the price of basic items.
On Thursday, Sri Lanka’s central bank confirmed that the country, which had been borrowing tens of billions of dollars over the years to feed the needs of a bloated system, had officially defaulted on its foreign debt.
The anger has been growing across the country as families have endured long lines for fuel, extended power cuts, and shortages of food and medicine.
For weeks, the agitation had remained largely peaceful, with protesters creating a tent city outside the administrative offices of the president in the capital, Colombo.
They called their protest site the “Gota Go” village — a play on the president’s nickname, Gota, and their main demand of him.
But tensions flared after supporters of the governing Rajapaksa family marched on the camps of the protesters this month, dismantling and burning their tents, which unleashed a wave of anger and violence across the country.