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Tuesday, May 17, 2022
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Anti-government demonstrators set fire to home of Sri Lankan minister

Anti-government protesters on Monday (May 9) set fire to a minister’s home in Sri Lanka, as the island nation suffers the worst economic crisis in its history.

Still photographs taken in Arachchikattuwa showed the house owned by minister Sanath Nishantha of resigned Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s cabinet, on fire.

Rajapaksa resigned on Monday to make way for a unity government to try to find a way out of the crisis, but protesters said they also wanted his brother to stand down as president.

His resignation came hours after clashes broke out in Colombo, where supporters of the ruling party stormed an anti-government protest camp and were beaten back by police using tear gas and water cannon.

A nationwide curfew has been imposed, on top of the state of emergency that Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa – the prime minister’s younger brother – declared last week in the face of escalating protests.

The island nation of 22 million people has suffered prolonged power cuts and shortages of essentials, including fuel, cooking gas and medicines, and the government is left with as little as $50 million of useable foreign reserves.

Sri Lankans have been taking to the streets in largely peaceful protests and demanding that the Rajapaksas step down.

The prime minister’s departure came during a day of chaos and violence, with pro- and anti-government protesters clashing for the first time since the unprecedented wave of demonstrations took hold in late March.

Multiple attacks on houses and election offices of lawmakers were also reported. Pro-government supporters were attacked in at least four locations as they were returning from Colombo, media reported. The houses of at least two mayors were also set on fire, police sources told Reuters.

(Production: Natasa Bansagi)

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