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Sri Lanka protesters surround PM residence; Galle Face agitation enters 16th day – Times of India

Sri Lanka protesters surround PM residence; Galle Face agitation enters 16th day – Times of India

COLOMBO: Student demonstrators surrounded the Sri Lankan Prime Minister’s Residence here on Sunday, as the anti-government Galle Face protests reached its 16th day and the clamour for the President and Prime Minister to resign grew louder.
Thousands of Inter University Students’ Federation (IUSF) supporters were seen sloganeering outside the Prime Minister’s Residence in Wijerama Mawatha. Dozens were demonstrating from the parapet and boundary walls of the official residence – in images similar to that of a seize.
The agitators demanded both President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Mahinda Rajapaksa resign. The slogans ranged from soft jibes to strait taunts. Some defaced the boundary walls with graffiti reading “Go home, Rajapaksa!”
Thousands of demonstrators have hit the streets since April 9, as the government ran out of money for vital imports; prices of essential commodities have skyrocketed and there are acute shortages in fuel, medicines and electricity supply.
The protests seemed to take a more belligerent turn on Sunday, a day after Prime Minister Mahinda dismissed calls for an interim government.
A defiant Mahinda on Saturday said: “What use of interim governments when people with varying policies can’t see eye to eye? There has to be accord which is not possible. If there is a need for an interim government it should happen only under my leadership.”
Mahinda reiterated that a unity government could be formed but only under his leadership.
Last week, the ruling dispensation reached out to the Opposition parties and protesters for talks, but all efforts were rebuffed as the agitators said they want the government to resign.
Meanwhile, the police over the weekend warned protesters from entering certain roads in Colombo, saying they have court orders. The students say no court sanctions have been made.
The IUSF said spiked permanent barricades had been installed outside Lotus Road which leads to the President’s Residence – Gotabaya is currently operating from there. His secretariat continues to be surrounded by protesters since April 9.
Till now, Mahinda Rajapaksa’s home Tangalle, 200 km from Colombo, has seen two attempts of protesters storming it.
Mahinda is being urged by his own party members to resign and make way for an interim government.
A group of over 40 Parliamentarians from the ruling coalition have declared independence and have demanded the formation of an interim government comprising all political parties to tackle the economic crisis.
The lawyers’ body Bar Association of Sri Lanka in a statement took exception to the government’s barricading of certain roads “fitted with spikes and black material”.
They urged restraint and to allow peaceful protests without violence.
Separately, a group of tea plantation workers of Indian-origin from the central hills reached Colombo and joined the protesters at Galle Face.
Human Rights Commission officials said they had visited the Lotus Road blockade to inspect the spiked barricades.
Sri Lanka needs at least $4 billion to tide over its mounting economic woes, and talks with international institutions such as the World Bank as well as countries like China and Japan for financial assistance have been going on. India has agreed to extend an additional USD 500 million credit line to help Sri Lanka import fuel.
India has already agreed to defer $1.5 billion in import payments that Sri Lanka needs to make to the Asian Clearing Union.
Last week, the Sri Lankan government said it would temporarily default on $35.5 billion in foreign debt as the pandemic and the war in Ukraine made it impossible to make payments to overseas creditors.

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