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Parachute mishaps and boycotts hit Sri Lanka's Independence Day preparations

Sri Lanka's preparations to mark its 76th Independence Day have already been marred, after two paratrooper mishaps resulted in four military officers being hospitalised, whilst the ongoing economic crisis has angry citizens in the south taking to the streets in protest. 

The day has for decades been marked as 'Black Day' by the island's Eelam Tamils, who see it as a reminder of Sri Lankan state oppression. This year both the Jaffna University Student Union, and families of the missing persons, have called for a boycott of Independence Day celebrations. The island's economic crisis has also seen Southern discontent over the cost of the celebrations, which has traditionally seen a range of military hardware paraded through the streets of Colombo. 

The government plans to go ahead with a pompous military parade despite the cost, with this year marking the 76th since independence from British colonial rule. Those in the south calling for a boycott claim that the celebrations are a waste of money, particularly at a time when many are struggling. The Sri Lankan government spent a colossal sum of Rs. 95 Million for the Independence Day celebration in 2022 and a whopping Rs, 200 million for the same celebration in 2023, despite the country going 'bankrupt' and the government declaring it was unable to pay back international loans. 

The Opposition Party Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) held a protest in Colombo this week calling on citizens to collectively show their displeasure at the government’s policies, which recently included an 18% tax hike. The SJB vowed to inspire the next wave of the ‘aragalaya’. The protest however was cut short after police fired tear gas and water cannons dispersing the crowd. 

Meanwhile, videos of two separate mishaps during the rehearsal for a freefall jump have gone viral. The videos show two army personnel and two Air Force personnel getting their parachutes entangled during their descent. All four of them are in hospital receiving treatment. 

Footage shows the two paratroopers getting entangled in each other's chutes before free-falling to the ground at speed near Galle Face Green. Video footage was captured by onlookers at the scene. 

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