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In pictures: Sri Lankan protesters remain rebellious

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — With no end in sight to the national economic crisis that has led them to take to the streets, protesters in Sri Lanka are clashing with a president they blame for crashing the economy.

On Thursday, as hundreds of student protesters continued their call for the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, they were met with tear gas and water cannons from police. They endured this, and an ensuing monsoon shower, adding loudspeakers to amplify their chants and speeches expressing their anger at the government.

“There is no other solution but the president to leave,” said Naveendra Liyaanarachachi, 27, one of the protesters.

Sri Lanka, an island nation of 22 million people, is facing a severe economic crisis, with depleted foreign exchange reserves driving up the price of commodities.

On Thursday, Sri Lanka’s central bank confirmed that the country, which had borrowed tens of billions of dollars over the years to meet the needs of a bloated system, had officially defaulted on its external debt.

Anger grew across the country as families endured long queues for fuel, prolonged power outages and shortages of food and medicine.

For weeks, the unrest had remained largely peaceful, with protesters creating a tent city outside the president’s administrative offices in the capital, Colombo.

They called their protest site the village “Gota Go” – a play on the president’s nickname, Gota, and their main demand for him.

But tensions erupted after supporters of the ruling Rajapaksa family marched on protesters’ camps this month, dismantling and burning their tents, sparking a wave of anger and violence across the country.

Police have begun arresting and questioning those suspected of being behind the attack, including parliamentarians belonging to the ruling party, as well as those suspected of having participated in the widespread violence and arson that followed.

Protest leaders say police also used the investigation as an excuse to crack down on those associated with protesters, arresting more than 300 of their supporters.

(Here, a protester throws a tear gas canister at the officers who fired it.)

Mr. Rajapaksa, the president, has appointed a new prime minister, who is trying to raise funds from friendly countries and ease economic hardship. But protesters say they will stay until their main demand – the president’s resignation – is met.

Tent city protesters quickly rebuilt their structures after Rajapaksa’s supporters attacked, setting up new tents in place of the burnt ones.

Every day, especially when temperatures drop in the evening, families arrive in large numbers to listen to speeches or join in the singing and music.


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