Colombo (Times Of Ocean)- Sri Lanka has imposed a curfew in the capital Colombo after protesters smashed a window in the private residence of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
A crowd of hundreds was gathered near Rajapaksa’s residence during the day to protest the country’s economic crisis, which has caused rolling blackouts that last 13 hours.
Police Inspector General C.D. Wickramaratne said in a statement late Thursday that the curfew will last “until further notice” in several areas of Colombo.
The protesters, which were exposed to tear gas fired by police, were chanting “Go home Gota!” and “Gota is a dictator.”
The country, which faces repayments of some $7.3 billion in domestic and foreign debt over the next 12 months, had reserves of just $2.31 billion as of February and may go bankrupt.
The protesters claim that the Rajapaksa government’s improper practices caused the country’s foreign exchange reserves to deplete rapidly, leading to a sharp rise in the price of staple foods and a shortage of items such as cooking gas and fuel.
While the government declared a state of emergency in order to contain skyrocketing prices of essential items caused by stockpiling, it has largely been ineffective.
Police said Friday that dozens of people were arrested in Sri Lanka after protests near the president’s home demanding that he resign amid the worst economic crisis the country has ever known.
President Rajapaksa’s office blames “organized extremists” for violence during Thursday’s demonstration, when police fired tear gas and water cannons and arrested 54 protesters.
Nuwan Bopage, the attorney representing some of the suspects, Nuwan Bopage, said that several of them had been taken for medical examinations for injuries and would appear in court later today.
Demonstrators blame Rajapaksa for the long power outages and shortages of essentials. The police curfew in the suburbs of the capital was lifted Friday morning.
Demonstrators on Thursday stoned two army buses that were being used by police to block protesters from entering the road leading to Rajapaksa’s house outside Colombo. One of the buses was set on fire, and a fire truck that rushed to put it out was turned back.
In an attempt to stop protesters’ attack on the bus, police fired tear gas canisters at protesters. At least one person suffered a serious leg injury.
On Friday, several burned vehicles were visible at the scene.
Sri Lanka has huge debt obligations and declining foreign reserves, and its struggle to pay for imports is causing shortages. Fuel lines are long, and power is cut for several hours a day due to insufficient fuel to operate generating plants and dry weather reducing hydropower capacity.
The island nation’s economic problems have been attributed to successive governments not diversifying exports, relying on traditional cash sources like tea and garments, and on a culture of consuming imported goods.
COVID19 has severely affected Sri Lanka’s economy. The government estimates a loss of $14 billion over the last two years.
Also, Sri Lanka has vast foreign debts after borrowing heavily on projects that don’t earn any money. Sri Lanka has to repay around $7 billion in foreign debt this year alone.
In February, the Central Bank reported an increase in inflation to 17.5% from 16.8% a month earlier. Since the government has allowed the local currency to float, it is expected to continue rising.