Protests in Sri Lanka over economic crisis and police brutality

Members of Sri Lanka's Inter University Students' Federation protest outside a state-run university demanding the release of student union leaders who are in custody in Kelaniya on the outskirts of Colombo, Sri Lanka, on October 18, 2022 [File: AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena]

Despite earlier brutal crackdowns, protesters gathered in Colombo to express discontent at the dire economic situation.

Wickremesinghe immediately declared a state of emergency, which granted sweeping powers to the military and resulted in a series of crackdowns on protesters, with several protest leaders arrested.

After a brief wait-and-watch period following the crackdowns, “people are now coming out once again, and the reason for that is there seems to be no let-up,” said Fernandez. “A few months ago it was just beginning to make itself felt at the household table but now most households are really struggling.”

In August, the United Nations urged Wickremesinghe to end the crackdowns, describing them as a “misuse of emergency measures”.

However, with the cost of living rising and a series of tax increases set to be introduced, discontent in the island nation of 22 million people looks set to grow.

Sri Lanka is also suffering from a dollar shortage caused by economic mismanagement and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the country’s tourism market. This has left the nation struggling to pay for essential imports, including food, fuel and medicine.

Sri Lanka is set to receive a bailout after reaching a preliminary deal with the International Monetary Fund for a loan of about $2.9bn. However, the deal is contingent on financial assurances from official creditors and negotiations with private creditors, leaving it unclear when it will be issued.


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