Sri Lanka police arrest 12 people for anti-govt protest near Parliament

    Colombo, May 4 (PTI) Sri Lankan police arrested 12 people for staging an anti-government protest near the Parliament building here on Wednesday and supporting the no-confidence motion against President Gotabaya Rajapaksa for mishandling the country's worst economic crisis.
     The protesters holding placards and shouting slogans against the lawmakers were put into a bus and taken to a nearby police station by the policemen on duty as they approached the parliament building.
     Main opposition leader Sajith Premadasa told parliament that the protesters had arrived at the parliament gate to hand over a letter to the Speaker of parliament.
     Police minister Prasanna Ranatunga said the protesters had hooted at the parliamentarians and that was a breach of parliamentary privilege.
     The arrest followed the arrival of several thousands of student activists who poured onto the road leading to parliament where the riot police stood by.
     The police attempt to obtain a court order barring demonstrations near parliament on May 5 and 6 was rejected by the Kaduwela magistrate, the lawyers claimed.
     Meanwhile, the Colombo magistrate court has issued an order to remove all structures placed on the pavement of Temple Tress, the office cum residence of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.
     The protesters who demand the resignation of Rajapaksa have been stationed there since April 26. The police in order to obstruct them had parked passenger buses on the pavement.
     The protesters continued to carry on with their protest.
     Responding to protests for the prime minister’s resignation, minister Dinesh Gunawardena said Rajapaksa won’t resign and would address Parliament soon on the current situation.
     Sri Lanka's main Opposition party Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) on Tuesday handed over to the parliamentary Speaker motions of no-confidence against President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the government for mishandling the country's worst economic crisis.
     Sri Lanka is in the grip of an unprecedented economic turmoil since its independence from Britain in 1948. The crisis is caused in part by a lack of foreign currency, which has meant that the country cannot afford to pay for imports of staple foods and fuel, leading to acute shortages and very high prices.
     Months of lengthy blackouts and acute shortages of food, fuel and pharmaceuticals have triggered widespread protests calling for the government's resignation.
     Sri Lanka needs at least USD 4 billion to tide over its mounting economic woes, and talks with international institutions such as the World Bank as well as countries like China and Japan for financial assistance have been going on.
     The country has run out of foreign currency to import badly-needed essential goods.
     Last month, the Sri Lankan government said it would temporarily default on USD 35.5 billion in foreign debt as the pandemic and the war in Ukraine made it impossible to make payments to overseas creditors.
     Sri Lanka has asked for an International Monetary Fund bailout, which could take up to three months to arrive.
     Central bank governor Nandalal Weerasinghe earlier in the week said the staff-level agreement with the IMF could be reached during the next two months.
     The finance ministry has also noticed the registered importers apply to avail themselves of the facility of the Indian Credit Line of USD 1 billion at the Indian Credit Facility Coordinating Unit (ICFCU) of the ministry.
     India has agreed to extend an additional USD 500 million credit line to help Sri Lanka import fuel. New Delhi has also already agreed to defer USD 1.5 billion in import payments that Sri Lanka needs to make to the Asian Clearing Union. PTI CORR MRJ MRJ

(This story has not been edited by THE WEEK and is auto-generated from PTI)