A Colombo man details what it’s like living down the street from the Sri Lankan President during mass protests
Posted On April 5, 2022
Thousands of protesters chanted to the rhythm of sticks banging against Ṭirams/bera (drums in Tamil and Sinhala) as they marched through a Colombo street in the heart of the Sri Lankan capital.
Reds, oranges, greens, and golds streaked through the crowds as dozens of Sri Lankan flags were waved through the air – the sword held by the golden lion on the flag a mark of the nation’s sovereignty.
A sovereignty that is currently fractured.
Tens of thousands of Sri Lankans have been taking to the streets of Colombo since the middle of March demanding President Gotabaya Rajapaksa resign as the island nation suffers through its worst economic crisis in living memory.
The country’s enormous debt obligations and falling foreign reserves has meant its struggled to pay for imports such as fuel and food.
Now locals, dragging containers, stand in queues that stretch for kilometres to buy fuel; the power in hundreds of homes gets cut for sometimes up to 13 hours a day because there’s not enough fuel to operate generating plants; and a crippling food shortage for essential items such as milk, rice and sugar is plaguing the country.
A Sri Lankan local living in Colombo, just down the street from President Rajapaksa told 9News what it’s been like living through the crisis.
“Just imagine infants soaked in sweat because there’s not even a fan, all the while the politicians were benefited with all the luxuries,” the man, aged in his 30s, said.
And he says “if you bought something for Rs 100 yesterday it would be Rs 180 tomorrow”.
“People could not take this no more and that’s when they came to the roads.”
The Colombo local says protesters want a “set of capable individuals who are not corrupted” to take over the government and “punish all corrupted politicians”.
“There’s a lot [the] international media could do for us. If you can influence the international organisations to look into this and audit these politicians that would be the win.”
President Rajapaksa declared a state of emergency on Friday, which was followed by a nationwide curfew that was implemented the next day, all to curb the intensifying protests.
But that didn’t stop the people of Colombo.
Thousands have defied curfew orders to continue protesting over the dire economic situation.
Dozens of protesters have been arrested, and the Colombo local claims the government is doing much more to stifle protesters.
“What the government did was put some of their own henchmen to burn buses, throw stones at defence forces and be all aggressive,” he said.
“During the protests, many innocent men and women were beaten for nothing.
He said while “people are peacefully protesting with singing songs and meaningful slogans,” the sheer desperation and fear emanating through the Sri Lankan people has resulted in some atrocity.
“A couple of days back a man committed suicide as well near [the] President’s house. [He] was electrocuted after climbing on to a transformer,” he said.
The local man said Sri Lankans are “united more than ever”.
“We are not scared,” he said.
“These politicians are morons. The most they can do is take a life and that cannot scare us.”