Sri Lanka: Students descend on PM’s house over economic crisis

Thousands of Sri Lankan university students descended on Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s home on Sunday, calling for his resignation as the island nation’s economic crisis worsened.

Months of long blackouts, record inflation, and severe food and fuel shortages have fueled rising public discontent in Sri Lanka, which is experiencing its worst economic collapse since 1948.

After police placed barricades on numerous highways across the city to prevent them from meeting up with protests elsewhere, student leaders scaled the fence of Rajapaksa’s compound in Colombo on Sunday.

While standing on top of the walls, one anonymous student leader shouted, “You can block the road, but you can’t stop our struggle until the entire government goes home.”

Protesters attempted to break down the barricades stopping them from entering the residence, but were met with rows of police brandishing riot shields.

Some held banners that read “Go Home Gota,” a nickname for Mahinda Rajapaksa’s younger brother, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, while others wore the Guy Fawkes mask, which has become synonymous with anti-establishment rallies.

According to police, Sri Lanka’s ruling clan’s leader, Mahinda Rajapaksa, was not present at the time, and the mob dispersed quietly.

Thousands of demonstrators have been camped daily outside President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s oceanfront office for more than two weeks, demanding that he and his brother stand down.

Crowds have attempted to storm the residences and offices of government officials across the country.

A man was killed last week when police opened fire on a road roadblock in Rambukkana, the first fatality since protests began last month.

After the coronavirus pandemic decimated essential tourism and remittance money, Sri Lanka’s economic collapse became apparent.

The country’s inability to finance vital imports has resulted in shortages of rice, milk powder, sugar, wheat flour, and medications, while rampant inflation has exacerbated challenges.

Enormous daily blackouts have been enforced by utilities unable to pay for gasoline, and long queues snake around service stations each morning as people queue for scarce supplies of petrol and kerosene.

Finance Minister Ali Sabry, who is in Washington to seek a bailout with the International Monetary Fund, warned on Friday that Sri Lanka’s economic condition is expected to worsen further.

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