Sri Lanka’s PM steps down after fierce clashes

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Sri Lanka Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa stepped down on Monday; according to his spokesman, soon after the violent clashes between his supporters and anti-government protesters, 78 people got injured.

The 76-year-old sent his resignation letter to his younger brother, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, paving the way for a “new uniting government,” said spokesman Rohan Weliwita.

Today, Sri Lankan authorities imposed a national curfew and deployed the military after dozens of people were hospitalized when government supporters armed with batons and clubs attacked demonstrators, AFP reporters said.

The American ambassador to Sri Lanka condemned “the violence against peaceful demonstrators today, and called on the government to carry out a thorough investigation, including arresting and prosecuting anyone who instigated the violence.”

Sri Lankans have suffered through months of blackouts and severe food, fuel, and medicine shortages in the island’s worst economic crisis since independence, triggering weeks of mass, peaceful protests against the government.

But on Monday, the most significant clashes since the onset of the crisis broke out in Colombo when supporters of the resident’s and prime minister’s family, AFP journalists at the 0scene, said the property had been ransacked.

Police fired tear gas and water cannons and ordered an immediate curfew in Colombo, which was then expanded to include the entire island of South Asia of 22 million inhabitants.

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At least 78 wounded were hospitalized, said AFP spokesperson for the Colombo National Hospital, Pushpa Soysa. Officials said the army’s riot squad was called to bolster the police.

Troops have been deployed throughout the crisis to protect supplies of fuel and other essential supplies, but so far not to prevent clashes.

Since 9 April, dozens of Rajapaksa supporters attacked unarmed demonstrators camped in front of the president’s office on the Galle Face promenade in downtown Colombo.

The violence erupted after several thousand supporters of the Prime Minister brought buses from rural areas and stayed near his official residence.

Rajapaksa had spoken to about 3,000 supporters at her home and vowed that he would “protect the interests of the nation.”

The supporters then initially destroyed demonstrators’ tents in front of the prime minister’s Temple Trees residence and set fire to anti-government banners and placards.

They then walked to the promenade of the Galle Face waterfront. They began to destroy other tents set up by the “Gota go home” campaign that demanded the president’s resignation.

The crisis in Sri Lanka began after the coronavirus pandemic affected vital income from tourism and remittances, leaving it short of foreign currency to repay its debt and forcing the government to ban the importation of numerous goods.

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