Police fire tear gas at election protesters in Sri Lanka, injuring 15 – National
Police in Sri Lanka fired tear gas and water cannons on Sunday to disperse protesters angry over the decision to postpone local elections after the government said it could not provide funding due to the economic crisis.
About 15 people were treated for minor injuries, according to the Colombo National Hospital.
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Thousands of supporters of the opposition National People’s Power Party ignored police warnings after a court order barred them from entering areas containing the president’s residence, offices and several key government buildings. attempted to march toward the main business district of the capital, Colombo.
The order comes against the backdrop of mass protests last July, when thousands stormed and occupied the presidential palace and residence for days. The crisis forced then-President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to flee the country and resign.
The turmoil was caused by severe shortages of some food, fuel, cooking gas and medical supplies after Sri Lanka went bankrupt after failing to repay its foreign debts. New president Ranil Wickremesinghe negotiated his US$2.9bn (about C$3.9bn over four years) bailout package with the International Monetary Fund, but only if Sri Lankan creditors gave guarantees on debt restructuring. A final decision can be made.
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Sri Lanka’s total external debt exceeds US$51 billion (approximately C$69.5 billion), of which $28 (approximately C$38 billion by 2027) must be repaid. It depends on whether China agrees to the same level of debt restructuring.
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The Wickremesinghe government’s finance ministry said it was unable to allocate sufficient funds for the March 9 town and village parliamentary elections, but political parties submitted nominations.
The decision forced the Election Commission to postpone the election indefinitely.
After almost a year, Wickremesinghe remains very unpopular, despite signs of progress in resolving shortages and eliminating daily blackouts. Many say he has no authority because he was elected by a legislator backed by Rajapaksa’s supporters.They say that in return for Wickremesinghe endorsing him in parliament, he denounces members of the Rajapaksa family for corruption. It accuses it of protecting it from allegations.
The National People’s Power Party, which organized Sunday’s rally, has only three of Sri Lanka’s 225 parliamentarians, after the economic crisis eroded the popularity of the traditional parties that have dominated Sri Lanka since independence. is enjoying a wave of public support.
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