Sri Lanka PM resigns as crisis deepens; ruling party MP killed in violent clashes

NEW DELHI: Amid the country facing its worst economic crisis since independence, Sri Lankan PM Mahinda Rajapaksa tendered his resignation on Monday.
Effective immediately I have tendered my resignation as Prime Minister to the President. අගමැති ධූරයෙන් ඉල්ලා අස්…— Mahinda Rajapaksa (@PresRajapaksa) 1652095974000
The development came on the day, the Sri Lankan police imposed a nationwide curfew after clashes broke out between rival political camp in Colombo, injuring at least 76 people, according to officials.
A ruling-party MP was also killed during the clashes, the police said.
Anti-government protests continue
Months of blackouts and dire shortages of food, fuel and medicines have caused widespread suffering across the South Asian island and weeks of overwhelmingly peaceful anti-government protests.
Rajapaksa loyalists armed with sticks and clubs attacked unarmed protesters who have been camping outside President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s office since April 9.
Police fired tear gas and water cannon on the government supporters who breached police lines to smash tents and other structures set up by anti-government protesters.
Earlier, former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, had said “our general public to exercise restraint & remember that violence only begets violence.
“The economic crisis we’re in needs an economic solution which this administration is committed to resolving,” he had tweeted.
While emotions are running high in #lka, I urge our general public to exercise restraint & remember that violence o…— Mahinda Rajapaksa (@PresRajapaksa) 1652084861000
State of emergency imposed on Friday
On Friday, the government had imposed a state of emergency granting the military sweeping powers to arrest and detain people after trade unions brought the country to a virtual standstill hoping to pressure the Rajapaksas to step down.
The defence ministry said in a statement on Sunday that anti-government demonstrators were behaving in a “provocative and threatening manner” and disrupting essential services.
Unions said they would stage daily protests from Monday to pressure the government to revoke the emergency.

Union leader Ravi Kumudesh said they will mobilise both state and private sector workers to storm the national parliament when it opens its next session on May 17.
“What we want is for the president and his family to go,” Kumudesh said in a statement.
Rajapaksa’s younger brother ‘wished’ for his resignation: Sources
Former Sri Lankan PM’s younger brother President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, though wanting his resignation had not directly conveyed his wish.
The President wants his resignation enabling him to go for a government of national unity, an interim arrangement till the present economic crisis could be dealt with, sources had said earlier.
“What I feel is he would say I have no responsibility for the present crisis, so no reasons for me to resign,” Jayasekera, a ruling coalition dissident said, adding that he would put the ball on Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s court as if to say sack me if you want.
Protesters demands
The protesters want the entire Rajapaksa family to quit politics and return what they alleged stolen assets of the country.
Mahinda Rajapaksa, the Rajapaksa clan strongman, faced public wrath on Sunday in the sacred city of Anuradhapura. He was hooted and catcalled by the angry public who have been on the streets demanding fuel, cooking gas and an end to power cuts.
The powerful Buddhist Clergy too had pressured the resignation of the prime minister and the Cabinet to pave the way for an interim government.

Background of Lankan economic crisis
Sri Lanka’s crisis began after the coronavirus pandemic hammered vital income from tourism and remittances.
This left it short of foreign currency needed to pay off its debt, forcing the government to ban the imports of many goods.
This in turn has led to severe shortages, runaway inflation and lengthy power blackouts.
In April, the country announced it was defaulting on its $51 billion foreign debt.
(With inputs from agencies)