Monday’s nationwide unrest was sparked by violence that broke out in Colombo in the morning after a large pro-government mob attacked protesters who had peacefully been demanding regime change over a cost of living crisis.
Police looked on as the mob, who were armed with clubs and sticks, injured 150 people and destroyed Colombo’s Galle Face protest site, where tens of thousands of people have gathered since April 9.
“This is a peaceful protest,” Pasindu Senanayaka, an anti-government protester told Reuters, “They attacked Gota Go Gama and set fire to our tents. We are helpless now, we are begging for help.”
The mob had allegedly been bussed to Colombo from across Sri Lanka to hold a demonstration in support of the ruling Rajapaksa family but afterwards, went on to storm the protest site.
Anti-government protests have swelled in size over the last week, demanding Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka’s president, and his brother Mahinda, resign, and on Friday, a nationwide state of emergency was declared.
Sri Lanka faces one of the world’s worst economic crises. Gross macroeconomic mismanagement and corruption means Colombo owes £21 billion to international debtors and has just £1.7 billion in reserve.
Unable to import enough essential goods from abroad, rampant inflation has caused the price of essential foodstuffs like rice to triple since January.
Sri Lanka’s largest medical union has also declared an emergency as the country has run out of many drugs and medical equipment, including life-saving cardiac medication and cancer drugs.
Protect yourself and your family by learning more about Global Health Security