Yesterday, anti-government protestors stormed the capital, Colombo, amidst the island’s worst economic crisis. The demonstrations gained international attention with several prominent global media stations covering the events which saw a clash between demonstrators and the Sri Lankan Military.
Al Jazeera covered the anti-government protests harping on the “growing anger” within the island, as Sri Lankans are forced to endure 13-hour-long power outages and hours-long queues for basic necessities.
“We came to protest the unbearable cost of living, fuel shortages and electricity cuts… We want the president, who has caused so much destruction, to go home.” 26-year-old Ajith Perera told Al Jazeera.
“The economy is so bad that we can hardly eat two meals,” he said. “Things were never this bad in my lifetime. Gota has to go,” he continued.
“I am angry, everyone is angry,” protester Saman Wanasinghe told Al Jazeera. “Who knows what will happen now? There will be protests all over.”
Al Jazeera also interviewed Alan Keenan, senior consultant at the International Crisis Group, who cited the anti-government protests were “an unprecedented show of anger and defiance.” Keenan went on to state;
“With anger growing and inhibitions against violent protest falling away, the current situation is a very dangerous one, even as it contains potential seeds of democratic change.”
“Many fear the government could resort to violence – either directly or through a staged incident, perhaps designed to redirect popular anger against Muslims. Vigilance from influential governments and international bodies like the United Nations is thus essential.”
Similarly, Bloomberg highlighted the anger of demonstrators, stating that inflation on the island has reached the “highest in Asia” at 19%.
“Go home Gota,” local TV channels showed protesters screaming at the house on the outskirts of Colombo. Tear gas and water cannons were fired after crowds broke protective barricades, while demonstrators pelted stones at the police.”
The Guardian also covered the protests, pointing to the Sri Lankan government’s apparent censorship of the media, stating;
“A live broadcast of the demonstration by a private television network abruptly stopped after what journalists said was pressure from the government.”
In another article, The Guardian also highlighted that:
"A crowd of hundreds of people chanted for Rajapaksa and the entire cabinet to resign over his handling of the crisis. Videos circulating on social media showed the protesters shouting 'lunatic go home'."
Reuters covered the plight of Sri Lankans and the “pain” caused by the economic crisis, stating;
“The power cuts add to the pain of Sri Lankans already dealing with shortages of essentials and rocketing prices.”
In addition, The Hindu mentioned that hundreds of Sri Lankans “took their anger to the President’s doorstep,” stating;
“Riot police were swiftly deployed to the spot. They used tear gas and water cannons to disperse the crowd, but those agitating endured at the spot, chanting “Gota go home” in Sinhala. Many were holding posters with anti-government slogans, and demanded that the government step out immediately, having “mishandled” the country’s economy.”
Following the protests, the BBC reported that the Sri Lankan police had arrested 45 people and highlighted that:
"The demonstrations mark a massive turnaround in popularity for Mr Rajapaksa who swept into power with a majority win in 2019, promising stability and a 'strong hand' to rule the country."
They also noted that "corruption and nepotism" were one of the main reasons the island is in economic turmoil.