COLOMBO, June 20 (PTI): A group of protesters in Sri Lanka demanding the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapksa for the mismanagement of the economy blocked all entrances of the presidential secretariat here, forcing the police on Monday to arrest 21 people, including a Buddhist monk and four women.
The island nation, home to around 22 million people, is currently facing its worst economic crisis in more than 70 years. Sri Lanka’s economy is experiencing extreme fuel shortages, soaring food prices and a lack of medicines.
The demonstration at the GotaGoGama, a protest site at the Galle Face, entered the 73rd day on Monday.
The protesters last night blocked the two entry points to the presidential secretariat in addition to the entrance which they have been continuously blocking since April 9.
Police arrested 21 people, including a Buddhist monk and four women.
Police said the latest action by the protesters to block the two gates which provide access to the finance ministry and the government treasury was uncalled for. The police wanted to clear the two gates as an IMF team is due to visit the finance ministry.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Monday held talks with a visiting IMF team on an economic programme that could be supported by the global lender’s lending arrangement for the cash-starved government which is seeking to find USD 6 billion to keep the country afloat for the next six months.
The GotaGoGama protest demanding the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa started on April 9.
Protesters blame the government for the mismanagement of the economy, which has sent prices of goods skyrocketing and the country’s reserves plummeting to levels reaching a record low.
The protest in Colombo spread to other parts of the country with wider public support.
Sri Lanka defaulted on its debt for the first time in its history as the country struggles with its worst financial crisis in more than 70 years.
Sri Lanka is seeking to restructure debts of more than USD 50 billion it owes to foreign creditors, to make it more manageable to repay.
A chronic shortage of foreign currency and soaring inflation have led to a severe shortage of medicines, fuel and other essentials.
Sri Lanka is awaiting official confirmation from India on a new credit line that would allow the cash-strapped nation to have supplies of petrol and diesel for the next four months, Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekara said on Friday.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said that a new Credit Line provided by India will support the cash-strapped island nation’s fuel purchase for another four months from July even as an LPG shipment of 3,500 metric tonnes reached Sri Lanka.