Thousands of Sri Lankans rally over government handling of crisis

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COLOMBO: Thousands of supporters of Sri Lanka’s opposition parties marched in the commercial city Colombo on Sunday (May 1), as a weeks-long political and economic crisis showed no signs of abating.

The pandemic, as well as tax cuts implemented by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s administration, have had a significant impact on Sri Lanka’s economy.

Dwindling foreign currency reserves have left the island nation of 22 million people unable to pay for imports of fuel, food, and medication, resulting in daily protests that have occasionally turned violent.

On Sunday, opposition groups completed a week-long march from Kandy’s central city, with thousands of supporters descending on Colombo’s Independence Square.

Many carried Sri Lankan flags and donned headbands with the words “Gota Go Home,” one of the primary rallying cries of the conflict.

“So many people are suffering from the cost of fuel and food. There are queues for everything,” said Sunil Shantha, a 58-year-old university lecturer who said he voted for Rajapaksa at the last presidential elections in 2019.

“Gotabaya is a failed president.”

Rajapaksa was slammed by major resignations from his Cabinet earlier this month, and he now faces a no-confidence vote in his reconstituted cabinet later this week.

Both he and his elder brother, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, have refused to resign, instead pushing for a unity government led by the president, which the opposition has rejected.

In a tweet on Sunday, Rajapaksa said, “I once again ask all political party leaders in (Sri Lanka) to come to an agreement on behalf of the people.”

“It is my honest goal to appeal to the people to work together to drive a pro-people struggle, regardless of party differences.”

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