Sri Lankan Opposition protests in Colombo
Thousands of supporters of Sri Lankan Opposition parties rallied on Sunday in the commercial capital Colombo as a weeks-long political and economic crisis showed no sign of abating.
Sri Lanka’s economy was hit hard by the pandemic and tax cuts by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s government.
Dwindling foreign currency reserves have left the island nation of 22 million people struggling to pay for fuel, food and medicine imports and brought thousands onto the streets in daily protests that have occasionally turned violent.
On Sunday, Opposition parties ended a week-long march from the central city of Kandy, with thousands of supporters thronging Colombo’s Independence Square.
Many carried Sri Lankan flags and wore headbands reading “Gota Go Home”, one of the main rallying cries of the protests.
“So many people are suffering from the cost of fuel and food. There are queues for everything,” said Sunil Shantha, a 58-year-old university lecturer who said he voted for Rajapaksa at the last presidential elections in 2019. “Gotabaya is a failed president.”
Rajapaksa was hit by mass resignations from his cabinet earlier this month and now faces the possibility of a no-confidence vote in his reformed government later in the week.
Both he and his elder brother, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, have refused to resign, instead calling for a unity government led by the president — an offer the Opposition rejects.
Pope Francis on Sunday paid tribute to journalists who have died or been jailed in the line of duty, defending a free press and praising those in the media who courageously report on “humanity’s wounds”.
Speaking to thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square for his weekly address and blessing, Francis noted that May 3 will be the United Nations World Press Freedom Day.
“I render homage to journalists who pay in person for this right,” he said, citing statistics that 47 journalists were killed and more than 350 jailed last year.
He did give the source of the statistics. Unesco, the UN organisation that sponsors World Press Freedom Day, said earlier this year that 55 journalists and media workers were killed in 2021.