Colombo, Jun 19 (EFE).- The Sri Lanka Army (SLA) reported Sunday that it had to resort to firing shots into the air to contain an angry mob at a gas station, as the country faces the worst economic crisis in decades and a lack of foreign currency to import fuel and basic goods.
The incident occurred Saturday night in northeastern Mullaitivu, where an “upset mob,” some of them drunk, attempted to “provoke” security forces by throwing glass bottles and stones, the Army said in a statement.
“Preliminary investigations confirmed that this was a deliberate attempt by some suspected elements to sabotage the goodwill and cooperation prevailing among members of the security forces and the general public,” it added.
At least three military personnel were injured and two suspects were detained.
“Troubled by images of violence in petrol queues, involving police & army. I urge security services to understand the frustration of citizens spending hours in long lines, & to exercise restraint in the use of force. I call on authorities to investigate any excessive use of force,” Resident Coordinator of United Nations in Sri Lanka, Hanaa Singer-Hamdy, tweeted Sunday.
The Bar Association of Sri Lanka also issued a statement warning against “irreparable” consequences if force was abused, especially in places such as gas stations, where tensions are on edge due to the difficult situation in the country.
Gas stations have been one of the points of greatest tension on the island nation for months, where dozens of people are forced to wait in queues for hours to try and refuel their vehicles or get gas cylinders for cooking.
The government announced a two-week closure of schools and institutes starting Monday to reduce fuel consumption while it tries to find a way to obtain foreign currency or loans to be able to import fuel.
The Minister of Electricity and Energy, Kanchana Wijesekara, urged people not to queue at gas stations for the next three days, as fuel distribution will not be normalized until next week while revealing that several Russian oil companies have been contacted. EFE