Sri Lanka Protests: Demonstrators Defy President Rajapaksa’s Curfew

Bloomberg Quicktake: Now published this video item, entitled “Sri Lanka Protests: Demonstrators Defy President Rajapaksa’s Curfew” – below is their description.

Sri Lanka’s cabinet offered to resign en masse following street protests over soaring living costs, escalating a brewing political crisis in a nation dealing with Asia’s fastest inflation. From Rajagiriya to Colombo, demonstrators protested President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s move to impose a nationwide curfew and state of emergency

“We gave resignations to the prime minister saying we are willing to leave at any time,” Education Minister Dinesh Gunawardena told reporters in Colombo late Sunday. “After discussing with the president, the steps to be taken will be decided.”

Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella said President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was expected to invite parties outside of his coalition and “offer certain portfolios in the next cabinet as the opposition has said they would have done something differently had they been in power.”

However the main opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya is concerned that such a move will not help in pushing for deep reforms as the president and his brother Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa still hold considerable power in government and enjoy the two-thirds majority in parliament. Opposition leader Sajith Premadasa has been calling for fresh elections so that people can vote on the economic policies needed.

Citizens across the island on Sunday defied a curfew and continued to protest on streets calling for the ouster of the president due to soaring living costs and the foreign exchange crisis. Social media groups are now calling for a “Black Monday,” asking people to wear the color to show unity and anger over the current situation.

The president, whose family controls most key positions in government, has sought to quell growing unrest by imposing emergency rule, barring gatherings and ordering Internet service providers to restrict social media access. Inflation is running at almost 19% and citizens have had to endure daily power cuts of as long as 13 hours as diesel runs out due to a foreign exchange crisis.

Mahinda Rajapaksa won’t step down, Derana News reported, without saying where it got the information. A government official had earlier Sunday denied media reports that the prime minister would resign, though he declined to comment on speculation that Sri Lanka is planning to form an all-party government to soothe rising public anger.

The Rajapaksa family has come under pressure as the government falls short of dollars to pay for food and fuel imports. The administration has devalued the rupee, raised interest rates, placed curbs on non-essential imports and reduced stock-trading hours to preserve electricity and foreign currency.

The government recently sought a bailout from the International Monetary Fund, a move it long resisted, and is simultaneously in talks with nations including India and China for bilateral aid.

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