Curfew in Sri Lanka lifted after violent protests over economic crisis

Hundreds gathered near President Gotabaya Rajapaksa's residence in Colombo late on Thursday

A bus burns close to the residence of Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in Colombo. Reuters

Sri Lankan police have lifted a curfew hours after protests in which dozens of people were arrested and several policemen were hurt near the home of the president.

Hundreds gathered near President Gotabaya Rajapaksa's residence in a Colombo suburb on Thursday evening to protest against his handling of the country's worst economic crisis in decades.

Police dispersed crowds with tear gas and water cannon, a Reuters witness said.

“We have arrested 54 people over the unrest last night. Several vehicles belonging to the army and police were burnt by the protesters, including two buses, one police jeep and several motorcycles,” a police spokesman, Senior Supt Nihal Thalduwa, told Reuters.

The island nation of 22 million people is in the midst of its worst economic crisis in years and has had to endure rolling power cuts for up to 13 hours a day because the government does not have enough foreign exchange to pay for fuel imports.

Five policemen were wounded and in hospital, Senior Supt Thalduwa said. There were no reports of protesters being wounded.

Demonstrators move away after police used tear gas to disperse crowds near Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa's residence. Reuters

“The main issue Sri Lanka is facing is a forex [foreign currency] shortage and protests of this nature will hurt tourism and have economic consequences,” Sri Lanka's Tourism Minister Prasanna Ranatunga told a press conference on Friday.

“Our stance is that people have the right to protest but it should be constructive. What happened yesterday was the opposite.”

Streets in the capital were quiet on Friday morning. Police combed through the burnt shells of two buses near Rajapaksa's home, a Reuters witness said.

Trading on the country's stock market was suspended for the third day in a row after the main blue-chip index fell by 10 per cent from the previous close.

Updated: April 01, 2022, 7:22 AM