Anti-government protest strike brings crisis-hit Sri Lanka to standstill

Colombo, May 6 (EFE).- Sri Lankan workers went on strike on Friday, bringing the crisis-hit island nation to a standstill amid an unrelenting demand for President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the government to quit over their alleged mishandling of the worst economic crisis in decades.

Thousands of trade unions had urged people to strike as the president and his brother, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, defied resignation calls even as the opposition has filed two no-confidence motions against the government.

As protesters and police clashed on the road next to the parliament complex, the speaker adjourned the house until May 17 without scheduling the debate on no-trust motions.

In the capital Colombo, most shops were closed, public transport was off the roads, with black flags atop buildings.

T. Gunasekera, a postal department union member, told EFE that if the president and the prime minister did not step down, the trade unions would extend the strike indefinitely from May 11.

“It is a struggle to clean up the governance system. The Rajapaksa family has become a pain for this country,” said Gunasekera.

Public bus and train services halted operations as most of the employees did not report to work on Friday, causing hardships to commuters.

Banks remained shut, and shops closed.

The strike came on the 28th day of an ongoing sit-in by youth-led protesters near the presidential secretariat in Colombo.

Earlier this week, some protesters moved near the parliament complex for a sit-in to express their anger against the government amid a shortage of medicine, fuel, cooking gas, and food.

The never-seen-in-decades financial crisis has plunged the island nation into dark ages with extended power cuts as the country struggled to pay for fuel after foreign exchange reserves dried up.

The protesters named the new agitation site on the city outskirts near the parliament complex the “Horu Go Gama.”

The protesters told EFE that they wanted the house to take up the no-confidence motion filed by the opposition.

In a new twist to the unending protests, demonstrators carried underpants to the protest site to show that all left with the Sri Lankans were “underwears and panties.”

Journalist Jamila Husain posted a video clip from “the famous underwear protest” at “Horu Go Gama,” showing undergarments thrown on the yellow barricades set up by Sri Lanka police to prevent the protesters from moving towards the parliament house.

“Protesters at the newly put up ‘Horu Go Gama’ have lined up underwears and panties near the parliament, saying this is all that is now left. Protesters say they will stay at the site and will not leave,” she wrote.

Naradha Perera, a protester near the parliament, told EFE that the government was “so insensitive that they even do not talk about the issues faced by the public.”

Police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse the crowds. Some demonstrators kept regrouping in their attempts to cross the road that leads to the parliament complex. EFE


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